Olivier Assayas’ 2012 film, Après mai (re-titled a bit puzzlingly for English release as Something in the Air), didn’t get a general theatrical run here in the States. This indignity is unfortunate: first, because it’s really good, and second, because in 2009, his Summer Hours was relatively widely seen and appreciated here. In the interim, Carlos, his three-part TV serial about Carlos the Jackal, came and went. It’s on Netflix Instant; I confess that I haven’t finished it yet.
I wrote about his new film, which I like a lot, in the INDY this week here.
Something in the Air is a roman à clef featuring a teenage stand-in for Assayas,. It starts in February 1971, on the occasion of a real-life violent demonstration in Paris’ Place de Clichy. We follow a group of radical teenagers as they pursue their violent anarchism to its inevitable consequence. But that’s only the film’s first act. The remainder of the tale is the process of growing up.
It’s a great film, and a wonderful period piece to boot. Locals can catch a 35mm print (nice!) at Duke University, Griffith Film Theater tonight.
One last note before signing off: The first Assayas film I saw was Irma Vep. I stood in line at Manhattan’s Film Forum to see this one weekday afternoon in 1996, but not because I knew anything about Assayas, who was due to appear at the screening. No, I was there to see the film’s star, Maggie Cheung, who was also in a relationship with Assayas at the time. Like other young cinephiles, I was caught in the grip of Hong Kong cinema, and Maggie Cheung was the scene’s Catherine Deneuve.
While we stood in line, Cheung and Assayas pulled up in a taxi. Asian photographers were ready—someone had arranged for a glistening new crotch rocket to be parked in front of the Houston Street theater. Cheung obligingly climbed on board the bike and made sleek expressions for the paparazzi.
It was probably the apex of HK cool for the mid-90s NYC film nerd.
A deeper read of Something in the Air is here. It’s by Luc Sante in the New York Review of Books. I haven’t read it yet myself.
And finally, I searched YouTube for Cold Water clips and came up with this 29-minute chunk. It picks up near the end of Virginie Ledoyen’s meltdown to Janis Joplin’s rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee,” which was the most unforgettable part of the movie. Certainly the part that stuck with me when I saw this film shortly after seeing Irma Vep.