Thursday, October 14, 2010

Carlos (Sundance Channel Cut)

Despite an enjoyable soundtrack and very good cinematography by Denis Lenoir and Yorick Le Saux, "Carlos" by Olivier Assayas is never more than a solid film. And, in its almost entirely unnecessary final third, it can be disastrous. I'm almost positive that the 165-minute version of this film will work better than the 5.5-hour original that I (and festival critics) saw.

The comparisons to Steven Spielberg's "Munich" that have been drawn are completely ludicrous. That film had a hotel scene that's not often cited which is one of the most effective scenes to ever depict a terrorist attack. The film takes it head-on, and it is brutal for the viewer. Assayas' film for the most part failed to rattle me. It has some good scenes in it, including one where the lead is cornered at a party at his girlfriend's apartment, but few if any that actually affect you. This may be due to the structuring and editing by Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier, which involves way too many fade outs and a lot of really erratic scene changes.

The film centers on the Marxist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (Edgar Ramirez), who works his way into the operations of Wadie Haddad (Ahmad Kaabour) and builds up a good reputation under the name Carlos. This is covered in Part 1 (which has been called "immersive" for a good reason), the film's strongest portion, when Carlos is still held in high regard. As he started to lose everyone's support in Parts 2 and 3, he and the film lost my support.

The biggest happening in his life was the one that lifted him up and ended putting him down. That was the "OPEC raid," in which he started off a hostage crisis in the way he was supposed to and, as things started to not fall into place, he made a wrong decision that defined his life and the way he was perceived by his boss, among others.

On a social scale, Carlos is somewhat of a wreck. He's simply not built to stay with a woman for longer than a little while, but he does every time. As a partner, he's extremely hypocritical. Look at a scene he has in Part 3 with his wife Magdalena Kopp (Nora von Waldstratten), where he expounds on the power that he has over her every action. Not the progressive revolutionary spirit talking there.

Carlos is played by Ramirez in a performance many have called incredible. I think it's a decent performance (with some good presence to be sure) that can be awfully stilted at times. I think overall Benecio Del Toro and Eric Bana, in "Che" and "Munich," respectively, did better work.

As director, Assayas does (as said before) move through the dense material well in the first part, but it catches up with him later on and the drags are felt. I prefer this film to his soporific and tired "Summer Hours" (the only other film of his that I've seen, if you don't count the 15 minutes I saw from "Clean"), but in the end it's not a whole lot better. C+


Stephanie said...

That scene where Carlos is talking about his power over his wife's every action makes him sound extremely creepy. I have to agree that doesn't reflect the revolutionary spirit.

It's a shame this movie wasn't better. Maybe it will be better when the editing is finished?

S. M. Rana said...

Your review reminds me to see Munich.