Olivier Assayas talks “Zodiac,” his new film “Carlos” and “what real life is about.”

Olivier Assayas talks “Zodiac,” his new film “Carlos” and “what real life is about.” (photo)

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Aside from having David Fincher on hand himself, it’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to offer insights into 2007’s “Zodiac” than Olivier Assayas. The Cahiers du Cinéma critic-turned-filmmaker just wrapped his own supersized adaptation of a violent true tale, “Carlos,” a five and a half hour epic about terrorist/revolutionary Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Assayas’ film premiered at Cannes last month before hitting French TV as a miniseries — it’s slated for a theatrical release in the U.S., presumably with at least one intermission for the sake of audience bladders, this fall. “Zodiac,” shown last night in the 162-minute director’s cut, was one of the director’s two picks to screen and discuss at BAMcinemaFEST, where he was joined by critic Kent Jones.

Speaking to the distinctive structure of Fincher’s film, Assayas noted that “This is a narrative that is determined by facts, by the randomness, the twists and turns of time and history and fate. It’s very faithful to the actual facts — every single murder or attempted murder is described in a way that is determined by the fact that there has been a witness. There is an obvious original description on which the filmmaker builds.”

06152010_carlos22.jpgHis approach to “Carlos” was similar, “in the sense that I was not concerned with the logic of how you tell a story in cinema, or how you move from one scene to the other. It was determined by how accurate I could be in describing this or that event.”

Accuracy and how much added motivation can be layered on characters drawn from real people led someone in the audience to point out that “Zodiac” is a film that’s largely absent of psychology, and to ask how Assayas approached Carlos, a character motivated by politics, in that sense. “In the film I made there’s very little psychology,” he responded, “because I believe that accumulating facts ends up drawing a portrait. It doesn’t give simple answers, but it gives complexity. Fact is fascinating. It’s extraordinary, it’s stuff you wouldn’t dream inventing. It has so many intricacies, it moves in such crazy ways. I was just fascinated by the facts, and I would use as little psychology and invention as I could.”

Regarding “Zodiac,” Assayas claimed that “to me this movie does to genre filmmaking what ‘L’Avventura’ did to narrative cinema in the 1960s, in the sense that in ‘L’Avventura,’ all of a sudden, the central character disappears, and you’re just left with abstract issues of what was really going on in life around that character.”

06152010_zodiac22.jpg“Here you have the notion that everything is in place for a classic narrative — a serial killer, the cops, a smart guy from everyday life, the ciphers. Everything should fall in place and there should be a resolution, and here you’re only left with question mark after question mark, which ultimately is what real life is about, and its very rarely acknowledged by cinema.”

Finally, he pointed out that “Zodiac” is in many ways a fascinating flip side to Fincher’s earlier study of a murderer: “What amazed me at the time and still does is the connection with ‘Se7en,’ because it’s like the anti-‘Se7en.’ It’s this incredible exercise in dialectics. In American cinema, I don’t see an equivalent.”

“The director who made ‘Se7en’ — using all the elements that came to be expected from that type of genre movie, completely a fantasy notion of what a serial killer is about, a movie that has all the elements of classic Hollywood narrative culture — would a few years later would make this movie that is the absolutely opposite of it, and that doesn’t play games with what evil is about, but somehow acknowledges evil as something that floats around with no simple resolution.”

[Photos: Kent Jones and Olivier Assayas at BAMcinemaFEST; “Carlos,” IFC Films, 2010; “Zodiac,” Paramount Pictures, 2007]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.