The Jackal makes a point in Olivier Assayas’ movie “Carlos” (Images courtesy Walker Art Center)
Sheryl Mousley who heads up the Walker Art Center’s film program is brimming with excitement about the imminent arrival of French director Olivier Assayas. He’ll appear tomorrow (Wednesday) at the WAC in a Regis Dialogue as part of the retrospective “Between Love and Terror.”
“He, almost effortlessly, has made this extremely diverse range of more than 20 films. And we are just showing 10 of them,” says Mousley. “They go from ‘Irma Vep’ that parody of the New Wave to that erotic fast-paced corporate espionage thriller ‘Demonlover.’ And now on to ‘Carlos.'”
We’ll get back to “Carlos,” the five-and-a-half-hour epic film about the international terrorist known to many as “The Jackal” in a moment.
When asked how Assayas maintains such a range of subjects, Mousley says the director’s diversity does not mean there is no through-line in his work.
“One of the things I love about a retrospective like this is you get to see how films, even as they seem very, very different, have these internal links. And he just loves to explore all the various things that are going on in life.”
Mousley points to the issues of globalization which weave through the Assayas films. Yet she also sees his ability to switch styles and subjects as a rejuvenating force in itself.
“I think it keeps him energized not to take on the same film again and again.”
Mousley notes that Assayas (right) is the son of a screenwriter who worked in the stricter times before the New Wave changed French film. The younger Assayas came of age as Goddard and his colleagues changed the rules about what a director could and could not do. Assayas is part of the next generations she says.
“He is the sort of child of that moment in time, and he has very much taken on the mantle of being very much an auteur himself, but he also relies somewhat on novels and other sources.”
Now comes “Carlos” which has induced swoons around the globe. The Walker will show it in its entirety twice on Halloween weekend.
“We get the exclusive local premier of the full five hours and I think it’s the way it should be seen. They are going to make a two hour version, that will be released in movie theaters, but people really should see the whole thing.”
The film will be begin at 1 pm and shown with a couple of intermissions so people can stretch their legs, and also talk about the experience.
Mousley says in an age where movies are available everywhere, including a phone, some people are looking for more when they go to the movies.
“What I am sensing is that the audience wants more than just a single film. They want some kind of an event almost.”
Mousley says “Carlos” is an engaging story which shows how in the 1970s a young Venezuelan with revolutionary tendencies was moved to terrorism through ideology.
“But became very infatuated by it,” she says. “And becomes almost narcissistic. He becomes a different kind of terrorist.”
Mousley says Carlos changed how terrorists behave, and laid the groundwork for the complex world where we now live.
“We get to see there’s a sophisticated system of power that controls international politics through terror and it really sets the stage for contemporary terrorism.”
Olivier Assayas is only appearing in three cities during his current visit to the US, and Mousley is honored that he has accepted the Walker’s invitation. He’ll talk with writer Kent Jones who is currently writing a book about the director.
You can hear my chat with Mousley here: