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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]

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…