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January 26 - 28

Driven: The Films of Olivier Assayas

Like the founders of the French New Wave, Olivier Assayas (1955–) discovered the cinema first as a critic writing for the influential journal Cahiers du cinéma. The dynamic eclecticism Assayas would evince in his filmmaking is already fully legible in his criticism, which focuses with equal insight on a diverse range of directors from Ingmar Bergman and Kenneth Anger to Hou Hsiao-Hsien and King Hu.

And like the New Wave directors, Assayas' films are inspired both by art cinema and popular culture, intertwining currents from "high" and "low." In place of the Hollywood B-movie beloved by the nouvelle vague, Assayas channels the gritty energy of punk and post-punk culture and Asian genre films, mixed with quieter strains of East Asian hip and cool. While Assayas is well-schooled in the venerated canon of of postwar world cinema (Bresson and Visconti, Ozu and Mizoguchi), his work also gravitates markedly towards the avant-gardist margins (especially Anger and Warhol, but also the Situationists) and the perennially young "new waves" of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In a filmmaking career now more than twenty years old (including mid-1980s screenplays directed by André Téchiné), Assayas has consistently conveyed an active imagination and a continued fascination with the dynamics of love, lust and affection, with misfits and criminals, and with cinema's unique ability to make them all real.

Special thanks to Richard Suchenski of the Yale Film Study Center; Jean-Michel Frodon of Cahiers du cinema; Brigitte Bouvier, Delphine Selles, Sandrine Butteau, and the Consul of French Cultural Services; and Jed Rapfogel and John Mhiripiri of Anthology Film Archives.

 

 


Saturday January 26 at 7pm

Cold Water (L'eau froide)

Directed by Olivier Assayas.
With Virginie Ledoyen, Cyprien Fouquet, Judith Godreche
France 1994, 35mm, color, 92 min.
French with English subtitles

In the time-honored tradition of The 400 Blows and Vagabond, Cold
Water
offers a tale of alienated youth, focused this time upon a pair of troubled adolescents who abruptly desert the families that are unwilling or unable to understand them. Christine (Godreche) is locked up for shoplifting, while Gilles (Fouquet) chafes under the weight of a smothering father (played by Hungarian filmmaker László Szabó). The climax of the film is a bravura extended sequence set at a teenage party in an empty house in the woods, an adolescent version of the ball in Visconti's The Leopard. Cold Water was Assayas' entry in "Tous les garcons et les filles de leur age" an ambitious commission by French television that chose nine directors to make a film about teenagers set during the period of the directors' adolescence. Other entries in the series are André Téchiné's Wild Reeds and Chantal Ackerman's Portrait of a Young Girl(Print courtesy of Universal Pictures)

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Saturday January 26 at 9pm

demonlover

Directed by Olivier Assayas.
With Chloë Sevigny, Charles Berling, Connie Nielsen
France 2002, 35mm, color, 117 min.
English, French and Japanese with English subtitles

In this bold updating of Feuillade for the age of global capital and
digital media, rival shadowy multinational corporations send their attractive minions (Chloë Sevigny, Connie Nielsen, and Gina Gershon, among others) to scheme, lie, or even kill for a stake in TokyoAnime, a Japanese company that produces 3-D animated porno-graphy. Although the plot hops from Parisian boardrooms to Tokyo nightclubs and Mexican badlands, there is only one true setting: the wilds of cyberspace, and the distinct unease that lurks there. Sourly flavored by a disquieting Sonic Youth soundtrack and the fragmented glass-and-neon visions of cinematographer Denis Lenoir, demonlover is a cynical and beautifully rendered postmodern fable of sex, high fashion and espionage as the new currencies of international cyber-business. Print courtesy of Palm Pictures.

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Sunday January 27 at 3pm

Les Destinées sentimentales

Directed by Olivier Assayas.
With Emanuelle Béart, Charles Berling, Isabelle Huppert
France 2000, 35mm, color, 180 min.
French with English subtitles

Assayas' unexpected foray into the period film adapts Jacques Chardonne's epic novel of the same name about the rise and fall of a French family and its Limoges porcelain business. Against the backdrop of the first decades of the twentieth century, Jean Barnery (Berling) struggles through two marriages, the Great War and the coming mass-production that threatens to render his family's factory obsolete. Assayas skillfully weds this narrative, elliptically presented, to wide-screen cinema-tography that embraces both his usual cool, muted palette and the sunnier hues of central France and Switzerland.

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Sunday January 27 at 7pm

Paris Awakens (Paris s'éveille)

Directed by Olivier Assayas.
With Judith Godréche, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Thomas Langmann
France 1991, 35mm, color, 95 min.
French with English subtitles

Familial affection (or lack thereof) becomes entangled with budding
sexual desire in Paris Awakens. Young Adrien comes to live with his estranged father, but their awkward reunion is given an Oedipal twist by Adrien's feelings for his father's young girlfriend. Further complications unfold with the revelation of a secret in Adrien's recent past. Paris Awakens foreshadows the complex, anguished family dynamics in Les Destinées sentimentales and Clean. (Print courtesy of Pathe.)

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Sunday January 27 at 9pm

HHH – A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien

Directed by Olivier Assayas.
With Hou Hsiao-hsien
France 1997, video, color, 91 min.
French, English, Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles

As a critic for Cahiers du cinéma, Assayas was among the first to recognize the profound talent of Hou Hsiao-hsien, the Taiwanese director often considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers working today. Assayas' documentary follows Hou as he wanders through Taipei visiting childhood friends and discussing his life and work. In keeping with the eclectic trajectory of his career, Assayas offered this intimate portrait of a still relatively unknown Hou as an immediate follow-up to his breakout hit Irma Vep (1996). Print courtesy of First Run/Icarus.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Monday January 28 at 7pm

Boarding Gate

Directed by Olivier Assayas, Appearing in Person
With Asia Argento, Michael Madsen, Carl Ng
France 2007, 35mm, color, 106 min.
English, French and Cantonese with English subtitles

In the vein of icy thriller demonlover, Boarding Gate is a mix of Hong Kong funk and Eurocool. "It" girl of the hipster set Asia Argento stars as a young woman working as a drug runner for her Hong Kong boyfriend (Ng), whose life gets even more complicated when her sleazy ex (Madsen) reappears. Bouncing between Paris and HK, the film reveals itself to be a deliberately feisty nose-thumbing at the new global marketplace (including, as Assayas notes, "the new order of film finance"). Print courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.

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