Criterion Prediction #173: Disorder/Winter’s Child, by Alexander Miller

Title(s): Disorder, Winter’s Child

Director: Olivier Assayas

Cast: Michelle Feller, Marie Matherhorn, Gerard Blain, Wadeck Stanczak, Ann-Gisel Glass

Synopses: Disorder (1986): A crew of bandmates break into a music shop to boost some equipment but end up killing the store owner in the struggle. After the incident, they try to maintain their status as an up and coming new wave/post-punk band but tensions and infighting seek to unravel the group due to the emotional strain of their past crime.

Winter’s Child (1989): Stefane, a listless young architect leaves his pregnant girlfriend, Natalia, for Sabine. However, Sabine is still hung up on Bruno, an actor she had a brief affair with. The intersecting lives of these four aimless lovers intertwine, leading to grave consequences.

Critique: (Disorder) For a while I had operated under the misconception that Cold Water was Assayas’ feature debut. Throughout its runtime I kept thinking, “This doesn’t feel like a first film,” given its fluid structure and causal energy emitting throughout. And it must be a testament to the director’s talent because when I actually arrived at his feature debut, Disorder, the same feeling washed over me. The style, pacing, structure and overall execution felt so much more experienced and enlightened than a first time director. Disorder has the charged embrace that permeates all of Assayas’ work. He’s one of the few screen artists who understands and incorporates the punk attitude and spirit, not the style (Alex Cox) or culture (Penelope Spheeris). Ironically, in the ascension of his career, the later feature, Cold Water, explores the curious period where the countercultural rebel yell was squelched in the wake of Altamont and the Manson killings, thus giving way to the harder and evolved musical precursors. Roxy Music, Alice Cooper and Leonard Cohen feature prominently and are in perfect tune with the characters and their tone of spirited, youthful rebellion. But in his feature debut, Assayas is invested in the post-punk/no-wave movement that arrived after the dissolution of the “classic” punk era. The emotional and psychological discord of the bandmates in Disorder is a result of their own self serving actions and the guilt that follows. This type of malaise is very consistent with gen-Xers. And with Disorder, Assayas captures a consequentially unique sensibility in expressing a culturally informed frame of mind. In exploring complex character motivations and story beats, it’s been a recurring motif that has grown throughout his body of work.

(Winter’s Child) It’s no wonder that Assayas and Andre Techine enjoyed such a fruitful collaboration as Winters Child feels like the best film Andre Techine never made. While that might not sound like a compliment or a slight to Techine, it’s actually a compliment to both he and Assayas because Winter’s Child is a sharp film showing the aesthetic cross-pollinating that can occur in the art of making movies.

The characters in this love quadrangle aren’t the most likable and their motivations don’t make sense but isn’t that one of the best representations of the recklessness of young love? Stupidity, selfishness, selflessness, irrational behavior, bad decisions, worse responses… Who hasn’t been unreasonable in these volatile emotional touchstones? Instead of getting bogged down in explaining motivations, Assays provides unadulterated proximity to the characters and their interactions.

Why They Belong in the Collection: Obviously, this isn’t the first time this article has championed the work of Olivier Assayas and the rationale for including his work might sound fickle because “Well, Criterion has distributed his other movies.” Well, that isn’t the most informed line of reasoning but there’s a little more substance with this entry in that Arrow Media recently released restored versions of these two early Assayas films and, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that these patterns often repeat themselves. While we can’t be sure that Criterion will release these films as a double bill (or at all), it stands to reasons that we could see Disorder and Winter’s Child get spine numbers.

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