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 Post subject: 582 Carlos
PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:14 pm 
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Carlos

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Carlos, directed by Olivier Assayas, is an epic, intensely detailed account of the life of the infamous international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sanchez—also known as Carlos the Jackal. One of the twentieth century’s most-wanted fugitives, Carlos was committed to violent left-wing activism throughout the seventies and eighties, orchestrating bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings in Europe and the Middle East. Assayas portrays him not as a criminal mastermind but as a symbol of seismic political shifts around the world, and the magnetic Édgar Ramírez brilliantly embodies him as a swaggering global gangster. Criterion presents the complete, uncut, director-approved, five-and-a-half-hour version of Carlos.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:

- High-definition digital transfer, supervised by cinematographers Denis Lenoir and Yorick Le Saux (with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition)
- New video interviews with director Olivier Assayas, actor Édgar Ramírez, and Lenoir
- Selected-scene commentary featuring Lenoir
- Carlos: Terrorist Without Borders, an hour-long documentary on the career of Carlos
- Archival interview with Carlos associate Hans-Joachim Klein, by Jean-Marcel Bougreau and Daniel Leconte
- Maison de France, a feature-length documentary on a Carlos bombing not included in the film
- Twenty-minute making-of documentary on the film’s OPEC raid scene
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critics Colin MacCabe and Greil Marcus, as well as a timeline of Carlos’s life and biographies of selected figures portrayed in the film, written by Carlos’s historical adviser, Stephen Smith

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:59 pm 
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zedz wrote:
It’s taken me a while to process my thoughts on this, maybe because it wasn’t what I expected – which was the culmination of Assayas’ line of globalization thrillers (Demonlover, Boarding Gate). The subject matter fits to a T, as globalization is what this film is all about, but Carlos largely eschews the fragmentary, hallucinatory style of those films in favour of a much straighter, more classical approach. It’s still fast-paced and whirlingly complex, but the ellipses and lacunae are largely missing, so long as you’re paying attention.

What we end up with is the film that The Baader-Meinhof Complex ought to have been, a comprehensive dissection of the Golden Age of Terrorism that teases out its madness, messiness and monomania. Assayas is completely focussed on that particular mission, so the sprawling film is quite journalistic, more like a meticulous filmic illustration of a series of precise diagrams charting the international connections and dynamics of dissidence and terrorism in the 1970s than a ‘human story’ set against that backdrop. It’s almost a pocket guide to How We Got Where We Are Today, and its concern with documenting political, social and criminal mechanisms put it closer to The Battle of Algiers or the first half of Casino than to most other biopics. That angle allows Assayas to bring to bear on the subject at hand the clarity and ruthlessness it demands.

It’s phenomenally dense and detailed, but apart from Carlos himself, the personal throughlines are incidental to the main thrust of the plot. Characters aren’t manoeuvred into place so that the relationships between them resemble the conventional shape of movie narratives, and even though Edgar Ramirez manifests a lot of traditional movie-star charisma, Carlos is not a character we’re encouraged to identify with. His vanity and confidence is a part of the character rather than an audience come-on, and it’s essential for him to function as the focal point for such a dense and wide-ranging movie, but it’s not ingratiating. At the end of five and a half hours, I’d say there was only one character who was actually sympathetic, and he’s less than secondary.

I lost count, but there must be at least ten different languages used for significant dialogue exchanges throughout the film, and long stretches of the film hop restlessly around the globe, daring you to keep track of which characters have moved from Romania to Hungary, or from Yemen to Libya, and which borders have been crossed and why.

Even though the film is much more traditionally structured and edited than many of Assayas’ other films, more Destinees sentimentales than Irma Vep, it’s still necessarily fragmentary, because that was the nature of Carlos’ life, a mish-mash of multiple identities and alliances, with literally dozens of conflicting agendas spinning around him like plates on sticks. Nevertheless, over the space of nearly six hours, there’s time for brilliant sustained sequences, particularly the nearly feature-length hostage sequence that bridges the end of Part One and the beginning of Part Two, in which the pace slows and the tension mounts.

Given the awfulness of the music in The Baader Meinhof Complex and Assayas’ track record in that regard, I had high hopes for whatever popular music he chose for this epic. He’d already used Neu! in Demonlover, but his selection here – lots of Wire – is the next best thing, I guess. At first I was a little nonplussed by these tracks, as I already had such strong associations with them and, initially at least (first up was ‘Ahead’ in Part Two), they were anachronistic, but I was convinced when a perfectly apropos ‘Drill’ rolled around. Musical honours, however, have to go to the Dead Boys’ ‘Sonic Reducer’, which accompanies a scene that winds up the story of a minor character: another perfect music sequence to put alongside Assayas’ ‘Tunic’ and ‘Janitor of Lunacy’ ones.

I want to see this as much as anything else I've read about this year, and I can only hope IFC does as well by this as they did with Che (at least, here in Chicago, where the roadshow version played for a week or two). I've only seen two of Assayas' films (Clean and Summer Hours), but even still he's become one of my favorite directors. The Gene Siskel Film Center has indicated that they're hosting an Assayas retrospective later this year, and I'm very, very excited for that. Thanks for your thoughts on the film, zedz.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:24 pm 
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Brian C wrote:
I've only seen two of Assayas' films (Clean and Summer Hours), but even still he's become one of my favorite directors.

Do check out the much wilder Irma Vep and Demonlover, at least. The two films you've seen only reveal one or two sides of a very volatile talent, and Carlos isn't exactly representative either. He's put together a really interesting career. On the surface you'd be hard pressed to find two recent French films as different as Summer Hours and Demonlover, but under the surface and between the edits you can find very strong continuities.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:03 am 
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Yeah, that's one of the reasons why I'm so excited about the upcoming retrospective, as I'm quite aware that I ain't seen nothin' yet. I very much wanted to see Boarding Gate when it was released, but Magnolia may as well have burned the negative as far as theatrical distribution was concerned.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:06 am 
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I don't know how complete the retro is going to be, but if they're showing L'eau froide, don't miss it.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:08 am 
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Not planning on missing any of them. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:28 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:01 pm
Has someone seen the shorter version (so-called theater cut)? I'm going to see the 330min one in few weeks but it would be interesting to hear opinions on the other, actually where is that even shown?
Despite enduring (and liking) stuff from other end of the scale like Satantango or Lav Diaz epics I'm never particularly excited about 3 hour+ movies.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:43 am 
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I found this to be disappointingly faithful to the standard (and largely worthless) biopic model, and Ramirez to be a completely unconvincing leading man. However, it's beautifully shot and often very gracefully edited, and the soundtrack is a real stunner. Speaking of which, can anyone point me in the direction of a complete list of the songs used in the film? I can't find one anywhere.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:21 am 
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Did you catch it on the Sundance Channel or the IFC Center? The complete lack of advertising for it bewildered me. This should have been a major TV event. As it was, I didn't notice it until I saw it on my guide halfway through Part 3.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:14 am 
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Digitally projected at IFC Center, with Assayas in attendance. He spoke eloquently but briefly, mostly about his naivety heading into a project which soon became a far more Herculean task than he'd ever dreamed it could be. They shot it in only 92 days!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:01 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 6:58 pm
I'm very intrigued to see where Carlos falls in between Baader Meinhof and Che, two films I found engrossing and extremely unsettling (in a good way) despite their being rife with contradiction (B-M, especially, being the largest [if I remember correctly] German film production of 2008, something the B-M probably rolled in their graves about). What I like about Carlos' set-up is that it's a bit of a synthesis of B-M's more radical, urban-terrorist tactics, less grounded in Che's praxis that's almost academic in comparison, and the individual bio-pic narrative of Soderbergh's film, as well as that one's extended running time. I've not seen anything by Assayas before, although Irma and Summer Hours have been on the radar for a while now, but early reviews and the wonderful extended piece Film Comment did on the film in their latest issue makes me anticipate this more and more. I hope Assayas can find a way to take the best aspects of both films, while also getting rid of some of their more trite applications (I don't remember anything terribly eye-roll worthy in Che, but the use of music and montage in D.B-M.K was hard to stomach), and maybe Criterion can snag it up too!

In any case, anyone who has seen the film, please elaborate on any/everything you can. Fingers crossed the traditional bio-pic narrative is somehow thwarted!


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:07 pm 
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DVD announced for November. I'm sorely tempted.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:49 pm 
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Just remember, optimum that are releasing that 3 disc dvd, are also releasing a 3 disc blu-ray the same day, the price is £2 extra. I already preordered it.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:28 pm 
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I felt fortunate to see the full 330-minute version projected today. Zedz already elucidated the film's strengths far more eloquently than I ever could, so I won't bother trying. I'll just say that I found the whole thing pretty thrilling, and despite the lengthy running time, I wasn't bored for a second. It's a shame that the television airings probably preclude this from most year-end awards attention, because I really think that it is one of the better films released this year. Édgar Ramírez delivers an absolutely tour de force performance, aging 20 years, gaining 50 pounds, and speaking in several languages, without it ever seeming like "stunt acting."

I really hope that Criterion has plans for this, and doesn't pass it off to MPI. I can see them potentially being deterred by the cost, since a release of the long version alone would require at least two Blu-rays (or three DVDs). They could probably fit parts one and two on a Blu-ray disc, and put part three and several supplements on the second disc. The shorter cuts could even potentially be offered via seamless branching, though I don't think they'd have much value. That's probably a lot to invest in a film that doesn't have the broad appeal of The Seven Samurai or The Night of the Hunter, but it would be an essential set for me.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2010 3:14 am 
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I didn't realize there is a possibility that Criterion could do this. [-o<


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2010 5:45 am 
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Jeff wrote:
I really hope that Criterion has plans for this, and doesn't pass it off to MPI. I can see them potentially being deterred by the cost, since a release of the long version alone would require at least two Blu-rays (or three DVDs). They could probably fit parts one and two on a Blu-ray disc, and put part three and several supplements on the second disc. The shorter cuts could even potentially be offered via seamless branching, though I don't think they'd have much value. That's probably a lot to invest in a film that doesn't have the broad appeal of The Seven Samurai or The Night of the Hunter, but it would be an essential set for me.

If they can afford to release swill like the Che set, they damn well better consider this too. Assayas is a real filmmaker; Soderberg is a schoolboy.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:30 am 
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The soundtrack features some anachronistic (but fitting) New Wave tracks. Great use of New Order's Dreams Never End throughout Part One... and lots of Wire in Parts Two and Three.

Edgar Ramirez is magnificent in the title role, and the entire film grips throughout its five and a half hours.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:01 am 
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reaky wrote:
Great use of New Order's Dreams Never End throughout Part One... and lots of Wire in Parts Two and Three.

Also "Loveless Love" and "Forces at Work" by The Feelies.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 6:42 pm 

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reaky wrote:
The soundtrack features some anachronistic (but fitting) New Wave tracks. Great use of New Order's Dreams Never End throughout Part One... and lots of Wire in Parts Two and Three.

The Wire tracks in Part 3 are not anachronistic.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 9:25 pm 
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Armond White, who takes his pop music seriously, hates what Assayas did on the soundtrack:
Quote:
Besides Ramirez’s striking performance, Carlos’ most distinctive aspect is Assayas’ perverse decision to score the 1970s-set story with anachronistic pop music from British and American post-punk bands of the 1980s. This helps distance the story’s political and moral significance by emphasizing the fun of post-punk rhythms and political affectation. If Wire’s “Ahead” didn’t have such stirring rhythms fit for exhilarating cinema, this gimmick would seem decadent and appalling—particularly for how it distracts from historical gravity, such as a clip of Yasir Arafat’s stunning UN speech: “I come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let branch fall from my hand.” Does its inclusion mean Assayas’ endorsement or merely a period marker for a film too cool to announce such things?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:40 am 

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Jeff wrote:
I really hope that Criterion has plans for this, and doesn't pass it off to MPI.

I don't know if it improves the chances of an eventual Criterion by much, but Sam's Myth designed the theatrical poster for Carlos. I would be personally quite surprised if this went to MPI.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:19 pm 
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Ebert.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:43 am 
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Has anyone seen both the roadshow cut and the 2.5 hour version? I caught the shorter version last night and felt underwhelmed, quite frankly. The rhythm felt off more than I expected. It was clear watching the film that a lot of material had been cut (Carlos' relationship with his first wife, for instance, seemed glossed over). I assume he did, but I'll ask: did Assayas cut the shorter version? Can anyone comment on how different they are in comparison?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 3:26 pm 
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I haven't seen the shorter version, but I believe it was Assayas' (contractual) cut. The long version might not work any better for you, however, as it's not structured like a conventional biopic, and I don't think any secondary characters get a traditional 'arc', so a lot of relationships are glossed over, so to speak. Dozens of characters enter and exit without introduction or exposition.

I've read that the most material was excised from the later (80s) sections, when the characters are bouncing all around Eastern Europe and the Middle East.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:04 pm 
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I read an interview with Assayas, I believe in the most recent issue of Cineaste, in which he talks about the challenges of putting the shorter cut together. It's not online and I don't recall exactly what he said, but yes, it's his cut.


Last edited by Brian C on Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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