His five-and-a-half-hour epic film,
, recently opened to packed houses at a city multiplex. Part of a French film festival, and coinciding with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to India, the film despite being a marathon 338-minute story of a revolutionary called Illich Ramirez Sanchez, received a warm welcome by film enthusiasts. French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, however, wasn’t all upbeat when he set out on a journey to make
Mammoth series released as a three-part TV miniseries in France, the film was a mammoth project and was also screened at Cannes.
Assayas recalls, “When I began writing the screenplay, I realised its complexity. It was going to be a minimum five-hour movie, to be shot in 10 different countries, with cast of a 120 from six to seven different countries. It was scary!”
However the project seemed fascinating to him on many layers, “
is a very interesting character, but not a pleasant one. His life was extraordinary. It was the story of one man and his exceptional fate. But then, it is also the story of one generation, the story of the western radicals in the 1970s.”
as an opportunity to ‘deal with geopolitics’. He explains, “It allowed one to understand the connection between terror and fate. And how it ultimately showed another side of diplomacy.” He admits that the onus of a filmmaker while dealing with a political subject lies in sticking to facts.
“When you deal with sensitive topics like politics, which is extremely polarising, you have to be factual. To me, it was not about my own personal opinions about the right and wrong of the politics of
. The politics of
is 30 years old, my responsibility towards the audience of this film was to get things right. I never went into the psychology of
,” Assayas explains.
The director, whose recommended films for the category, 50 movies to see before you die, are currently being aired on UTV World Movies, thinks the state of French cinema is way better now.
“We have a lot more financing sources to support young filmmakers and art films. It’s one film culture which generates the highest number of first-timers and women filmmakers,” Assayas says, adding that the broad spectrum of cinema is completed by his favourites — Robert Bresson and Benoit Jacquot. He mentions Charles Chaplin’s
A King In New York
and Francois Truffaut’s
The Last Metro
in his list.
Indian favourites Assayas, who also wrote for Cahier du Cinema, hasn’t seen much of Indian films, but has fond memories of meeting Satyajit Ray when he brought his first feature film
, to an Indian film festival in 1986. He has seen Anurag Kashyap’s
(2004) and enjoys Sudhir Mishra’s work.
A student of French literature and a painter, Assayas drew inspiration from his screenwriter-father Jacques Remy. He admits, “My father took filmmaking simply as a job, but he transferred his love for arts and literature to me. I began viewing film as an art. I now also realise that sometimes the most creative work happens in the most unexpected places.”