89. Olivier Assayas
CARLOS, CLEAN, IRMA VEP, SUMMER HOURS
With its loud, aggro snottiness, punk rock music is hard for some people to think of in terms of it being “art.” They’re wrong but that’s a topic for another day. Slightly more acceptable is the less emotive and more patient – if similarly angry – music known as post-punk. Olivier Assayas is a post-punk director. I’m not saying that because he used the music of Dead Boys, The Feelies and Wire in his recent opus, Carlos. I’m saying it because he makes the kind of movies where that music is appropriate. Formalistically lean and philosophically anti-obscurantist, his films are about what they are about. Yet he’s also drawn to solipsistic characters (another traditional punk theme) who often seem to be living perpetual one-person shows for no audience other than themselves. In Irma Vep and Demonlover, his leads get involved in high-stakes professional intrigue but they self-consciously look great while doing it. Late August, Early September is an ensemble film in which his characters spend two hours talking to one another and learn almost nothing. And Carlos, perhaps his master work, actually becomes more political as the overtly political elements are replaced by the personal, the place where all politics and all great art come from.
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