×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Late August, Early September

A kaleidoscopic but engrossing study of the shifting sands of friendship among a group of Parisians, "Late August, Early September" reps a major advance by writer-director Olivier Assayas in warmth and maturity of observation.

With:
Gabriel Deshays - Mathieu Amalric
Anne Rosenwald - Virginie Ledoyen
Adrien Willer - Francois Cluzet
Jenny - Jeanne Balibar
Jeremie - Alex Descas
Lucie - Arsinee Khanjian
Vera - Mia Hansen-Love
Maryelle - Nathalie Richard
Thomas - Eric Elmosnino
Axel - Olivier Cruveiller
Editor - Jean-Baptiste Malartre
Hattou - Andre Marcon

A kaleidoscopic but engrossing study of the shifting sands of friendship among a group of Parisians, “Late August, Early September” reps a major advance by writer-director Olivier Assayas in warmth and maturity of observation. Shot in a slightly grainy, elliptical style but buoyed by terrific ensemble playing from its varied cast, this tres Gallic relationships pic will appeal to upscale auds on the arthouse circuit but will need strong critical support to make much of a theatrical dent outside France, given the lack of star names and hooks to mark it out from the mass of similar movies.

The picture is very different from Assayas’ previous, jokey feature, “Irma Vep,” and for those who have followed Assayas’ movies (little known outside France and the fest circuit), reps a quantum leap in accessibility: His previously somewhat remote and one-dimensional approach is here replaced by considerable depth. At age 43, Assayas has made his first really mature movie.

Though the characters are occasionally infuriating, often self-absorbed and almost always victims of their own egoism and mistakes, as observed here over the course of a year — from late August to early September — they emerge as fully rounded people, viewed from all angles, not simply constructs of dramatic convenience. And though the protagonists are younger and less bourgeois, and the setting is the less forgiving ’90s, pic strongly recalls in tone Claude Sautet’s great ’70s ensemble movies with its emotional generosity, admission that things change, lack of easy heroes and villains and the powerful influence of death in redefining friendships.

Central quartet comprises Gabriel (Mathieu Amalric), his ex-partner Jenny (Jeanne Balibar), his best friend Adrien (Francois Cluzet) and his new g.f. Anne (Virginie Ledoyen), a young designer.

Adrien, a former bestselling author, is suddenly faced with the reappearance of an illness that is now terminal, which opens up self-doubts about his worth as a writer and his longtime friendship with Gabriel. Unlike Adrien, Gabriel is not a risk-taker: His career path as an editor at a publishing house is steady and secure, and he’s still in emotional indecision over his split with the somewhat loopy Jenny and his new relationship with the younger, all-or-nothing Anne.

Jenny still misses Gabriel but finds a kind of safety net in her friendship with Adrien. He, however, has entered a kamikaze affair with a 15-year-old schoolgirl, Vera (Mia Hansen-Love). As Jenny slowly rebounds into a relationship with another man (Alex Descas), all of the characters’ feelings are thrown back in the blender by the death of Adrien. Pic’s final 40 minutes develop into a moving re-examination of the ties that bind the group and the new directions in which their lives are headed.

Assayas’ approach of dipping into his characters’ lives at key moments, rather than developing a sustained narrative, is a high-risk one and a hard trick to pull off. It’s down to his actors’ capabilities and his consistent ability to come up with new insights that he mostly succeeds in holding the viewer’s attention.

Boyish-looking Amalric, best known overseas from Arnaud Desplechin’s ensembler “How I Got Into an Argument,” is well cast as the acceptable face of male indecision and plays off well against Cluzet’s more battered and cynical Adrien. As the disorganized, somewhat air-headed Jenny, Balibar (also from the Desplechin pic) is a total delight, funny, likable and finally touching. (Thesp won Best Actress at the San Sebastian fest for her performance.) The magical Ledoyen is perfectly cast as the highly-sexed Anne and shows surprising depth in film’s latter stages.

Like most of its genre, pic is an endless roundelay of scenes in bars, bedrooms and workplaces — character- and dialogue-driven sequences separated by rapid fades and given an edgy feel by Denis Lenoir’s hand-held camera and bleached colors. Occasional music is well placed, kicking in to enhance mood. Minimal tightening of the final half-hour would not have hurt, but by the film’s end the viewer is still left with a desire to follow these people on in what is clearly an unfinished story.

Late August, Early September

French

Production: A Polygram Film Distribution release (in France) of a Dacia Films/Cinea production, with participation of Canal Plus and CNC. (International sales: UGC Intl., Paris.) Produced by Georges Benayoun, Philippe Carcassonne. Executive producer, Francoise Guglielmi. Directed, written by Olivier Assayas.

Crew: Camera (color), Denis Lenoir; editor, Luc Barnier; music, Ali Sarka Toure; production designer, Francois Renaud Labarthe; costume designer, Francoise Clavel; sound (Dolby SRD), Francois Waledisch, William Flageollet; assistant director, Marie-Jeanne Pascal; casting, Antoinette Boulat. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema) , Sept. 15, 1998. (Also in San Sebastian --- competing --- and New York festivals.) Running time: 111 MIN.

With: Gabriel Deshays - Mathieu Amalric
Anne Rosenwald - Virginie Ledoyen
Adrien Willer - Francois Cluzet
Jenny - Jeanne Balibar
Jeremie - Alex Descas
Lucie - Arsinee Khanjian
Vera - Mia Hansen-Love
Maryelle - Nathalie Richard
Thomas - Eric Elmosnino
Axel - Olivier Cruveiller
Editor - Jean-Baptiste Malartre
Hattou - Andre Marcon

More Film

  • Critics Week

    Cannes Critics’ Week Unveils Its Lineup

    Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction thriller “Vivarium” with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Jérémy Clapin’s fantasy-filled animated feature “I Lost My Body,” and Hlynur Pálmason’s Icelandic drama “A White, White Day” are among the 11 films set to compete at Critics’ Week, the section dedicated to first and second films that runs parallel with the Cannes Film [...]

  • China Box Office: 'Wonder Park' Fails

    China Box Office: 'Wonder Park' Fails to Impress While 'P Storm' Rages On

    Even on one of the quietest weekends of the year, new U.S. animated release “Wonder Park” failed to inspire Chinese audiences as much as Hong Kong and Indian movies already in their third weekend in theaters. Starring the voice talents of Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, and Ken Jeong, among many others, the film [...]

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content