October 29, 2010

Carlos @ the Walker - This Weekend Only

Tell you what, if I'm going to spend 5+ hours in a theater for one film, I'd much rather it be in the comfort of the Walker Cinema than in the chiropractic-certified Uptown Theater, where I saw Steven Soderbergh's epic, Che. So if back pain is your excuse not to see Carlos this weekend in its exclusive engagement at the Walker, you better come up with another excuse.

And I better come up with a worthier excuse for missing the Regis Dialogue with director Olivier Assayas last week, in which he must have given terrific insight into his latest film. If you haven't seen any of the Assayas films being screened at the Walker this month, this weekend is your last chance to see his newest critical darling, which will premiere on the Sundance Channel and Video on Demand later this year.

What I appreciated most about Carlos, aside from its impossibly quick 319-minute running time, is that it tells so much critically important world history while also illuminating the inner life of "Carlos the Jackal", one of the most notorious international terrorists of the last generation (to me, the potential similarity to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda is striking). Assayas has somehow made a historical film more action-packed than it should be, and an action thriller more historically relevant than it should be. And in addition to its watchability, Carlos features one of the flat-out best performances of the year by Édgar Ramírez as the title character (incidentally, he also starred in Che).

Granted, before the first scene we read that there is no way to accurately portray two decades worth of Carlos' exploits, and yes, much of the political dialogue is as subtle as a sledgehammer. But to me this is an ambitious, original film that doesn't substitute entertainment for art - something Soderbergh may have wisely considered before Che landed with a bit of thud to restless audiences. People have assumptions and mythical ideas about terrorists, after all, and artistically painting them in a sympathetic light isn't likely to do much but confuse and disengage. Assayas understands this desire on the part of the viewer (kind of strange considering the art-value of his other films), and essentially delivers the made-for-TV version - just done really well. We can only hope other marathon movies follow suit.

Carlos screens Sat 10/30 and Sun 10/31 at 1:00 PM,
with a 15- and 30-minute intermission.


  1. Loved this film. I saw it when it aired in 3 parts on the Sundance Channel. And you're right about Ramirez. Interesting, Assayas has said that Soderbergh's CHE actually gave him valuable insight into how to do CARLOS and he had very kind words to say about it, rightly pointing out that CHE isn't really about the man, but about guerrilla warfare with one example of how it works and one example of how it doesn't. CARLOS is about the man and about the world around him - how he shaped it and how it shaped him. A very ambitious undertaking but I really felt Assayas nailed it. One of my fave films of the year.

  2. What I loved most about this movie was the soundtrack! How unexpectedly awesome! Plus the acting was phenomenal! Bomp Bomp!

  3. Great comparison, J.D. - sounds like an insight I surely missed from Assayas' talk here!

    Beav, did you see the 2.5 hour version? I've come to learn that that's the one available on VOD (and that the full 5.5 hour version already played on the Sundance Channel, not that it will later this fall, as I wrote - unless it's rebroadcast).

    Weird that there are two versions floating around when one is less than half the length of the other. Heck of an editing job.


Related Posts with Thumbnails