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Submitted by admin on November 3, 2024 – 12:42 amNo Comment

In 2024 the Rice Media Center ran a retrospective of French director Olivier Assayas’ films from the 1980s and 1990s. While Assayas didn’t appear in person he did send a list of songs to play before each film; a kind of remote DJ mix tape of mostly new wave style pop. It’s not surprising that his newest film Carlos has a wall-to-wall new wave soundtrack. Carlos is nothing if not sex, revolution and rock and roll.

With the closing of the Angelika Theater some worthy foreign films will not find a berth in Houston. Notably the two movies that form the Mesrine series, Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1. But the MFAH film department in its infinite wisdom has seen fit to start booking some indie and foreign titles over the next two months. That would include Soul Kitchen, Howl, and Assayas’ incredibly epic Carlos, a 319-minute tour de force, which unwinds in a whirlwind complete with intermissions. Whereas the Mesrine movies chronicle the life and death of one of France’s most notorious criminals, Carlos focuses on France’s most notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal, birth name Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. Carlos the movie creates a vivid picture of the international terrorist scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Carlos himself is currently serving a life sentence in France.

Carlos doesn’t advocate terrorism as a way of life any more than the Godfather trilogy urges viewers to become mobsters. Rather, Assayas detaches the audience from the experience by illustrating in a cause and effect manner how idealism can change from martyrdom to pure mercenary motives. Cinematically Carlos moves a mile a minute; you’re never bored, the action propels scene after scene and you remained glued to the screen throughout.

Songs by New Order, Wire, the Dead Boys, the Feelies, A Certain Ratio and others provide a mood of recklessness that’s mirrored in the way Carlos wants to change the world. After associating and then falling out with the PFLP Carlos sets up his own international network of operatives for hire, only to become marginalized and betrayed by the various factions for whom he works.

Assayas works with an international cast and shot the film in three months using several different countries for their actual locations. Many of the Middle Eastern and African locales are doubled in Beirut, with other scenes taking place in London, Paris, Budapest and East Berlin. Carlos unfolds in at least six languages and star Edgar Ramirez dominates the proceedings with his stunning performance. Carlos is like no other movie ever made. The production was lensed with the object of making it available both as a French television series (it ran domestically on cable in October) and as an international theatrical release. The MFAH unwinds Carlos November 4 (at 4 pm.) and November 5 and 6 at 6 pm.

- Michael Bergeron

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