As the hot summer winds are blowing through the streets of our fair city of Toronto and movie goers are finding themselves in the throes of tent pole blockbuster season at the multiplexes and they find themselves looking for something just a little bit more. That’s where the retrospective of the cinematic kind comes into play as the collections and the works of some of the more compelling storytellers in the visual medium are set on display.
Kicking off this Thursday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox we’ve got ourselves a doozy of a retrospective as they decide to kick off the summer season with a series dedicated to the works of a filmmaker whose genuine versatility makes him hard to lock down while still seeing a real thread of genuine emotion and humanity in his work. Something In The Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas runs from this Thursday all the way until Sunday August 20th with a unique selection of his works and the things that inspired him along the way.
Working in multiple languages and with a wide variety of characters along his travels the films of Assayas manage to keep a common thread of always trying to push limits and never ever being boring tackling a wide variety of subjects in a way that never forgets about the heart and the humanity of the lives we get invested in on screen.
If you are going to run a retrospective of someone’s works you might as well do it in style as Olivier Assayas himself will be in town both this Thursday and Friday to introduce not only some of his more fascinating work but some of his Carte Blanche selections that are undoubtedly some of his personal favorites and influenced his other works. On Thursday he’ll be in person to introduce his breakthrough feature Cold Water which follows two troubled teen lovers in the aftermath of volatile civil unrest in Paris of May 1968. Rarely screened on this side of the pond, this film really was the first glimpse we got of how he really manages to hit to the core of his characters and the struggles they are going through, paired up with his personal choice of Le Diable Problement from director Robert Bresson screening directly after, this launch promises to be one of the more unique events that film fans will get to be privy to all year. As if that weren’t enough he’s also sticking around on Saturday night to introduce the heartbreaking Clean featuring Maggie Cheung in a tour de force performance as a former junkie trying to clean up her life and regain custody of her son along with Gerard Blain’s Le Pelican, it’s a unique opportunity to get some firsthand cinematic wisdom from not only some rarely screened films but also a genuine master of the art form who is always trying to do something that’s not only bold but resonate at the exact same time.
The weekend ends up with screenings of the sublime Irma Vep, Late August, Early September which was a surprisingly stunning portrait of relationships and their constant state of flux which absolutely floored this critic and Les Destinées sentimentales a bold period piece featuring the indomitable Isabelle Huppert.
Screenings continue as his films tackle subjects like family (Summer Hours and MANY others), the intersection of life and art (Clouds of Sils Maria), rampant consumerism (demonlover), terrorism (Carlos) and even a straight up story of grief that is wrapped into a supernatural thriller with subtle and unique overtones (Personal Shopper) that only get seen in the worlds of art cinema but get applied in his films with such care and nuance.
If the multiplexes are causing you any kind of emotional and physical fatigue then I dare say that Something In The Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas is the cure for what ails you as it promises to be yet another chance to screen films that haven’t been shown in town for years on the big screen the way that they were meant to be seen.