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The Fiction and Non-Fiction of Olivier Assayas

"Summer Hours." 2008. France. Directed bye Olivier Assayas

The American Cinematheque will be hosting a series of films by acclaimed filmmaker Olivier Assayas at the Aero Theatre from Thursday, May 2 – Friday, May 3. 

Thurs, May 2 – 7:30pm: Double-feature of Irma Vep and Summer Hours
Fri, May 3 – 7:30pm: Advance screening of Non-Fiction

Born in Paris in 1955, Olivier Assayas started out as a painter and graphic designer. He began making his own short films while pursuing his interest in globalizing culture and technology as an editor of Cahiers du Cinema in the early 1980s.

Since his 1986 feature debut, Désordre, which was awarded the Critic’s Week Prize at the Venice Biennale, Assayas has consistently delivered a rich and diverse body of work that has brought him international recognition. French box office success Irma Vep salutes Hong Kong cinema, while Summer Hours was hailed by the New York Times as one of the “Best Films of the 21st Century (so far).”

The writer-director’s latest is Non-Fiction. Starring Juliette Binoche and Guillame Canet, it’s a witty, seductive tale of sex, lies, and literature set in the bohemian intelligentsia of the Parisian publishing world, though this buoyant, breezy delight is also thought-provoking. “The digitalization of our world and its reconfiguration into algorithms is the modern vector of a change that confuses and overwhelms us,” notes Assayas. “Digital economy infringes rules and often laws. NON-FICTION does not attempt to analyze workings of this new economy, but rather to observe how those questions shake us, personally, emotionally, and sometimes humorously.”

Irma VepAssayas’ live-wire international breakthrough stars a magnetic Maggie Cheung as a version of herself: a Hong Kong action-movie star who arrives in Paris to play the latex-clad lead in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic 1915 crime serial Les Vampires. What she finds is a behind-the-scenes tangle of barely controlled chaos as egos clash, romantic attractions simmer and an obsessive director (Jean-Pierre Léaud) drives himself to the brink to realize his vision. 

Directed and written by: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Nathalie Richard
Year: 1996
Runtime: 99 min
Language: French, English 
Distributor: Janus Films

Summer Hours: Juliette Binoche stars in this haunting family drama which follows three siblings as they grapple with the death of their mother (Edith Scob). Tasked with dispersing their mother’s valuable assets, Adrienne (Binoche) and her brothers, Frédéric (Charles Berling) and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), begin to realize their deeply personal attachments to their inheritance, as their childhood memories flood back into focus only to fade once more.

Directed and written by: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier
Year: 2008
Runtime: 103 min
Language: French, English 
Distributor: Criterion Collection

Non-Fiction: This timely comedy traces the romantic and emotional fallout that results when a controversial writer (Vincent Macaigne) begins blurring the line between fact and fiction, using his real-life love affairs - including a passionate fling with an actress (Binoche) who happens to be married to his editor (Canet) - as fodder for his explosive new novel. Balancing dry wit with keen observations on the tensions between art, commerce, and technology, the film is a buoyant, breezy delight from a master director at his most effortlessly brilliant.

Directed and written by: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Vincent Macaigne, Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet
Year: 2018
Runtime: 107 min
Language: French with English subtitles
Distributor: Sundance Selects