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.