LOCARNO, Switzerland — Following on Kristen Stewart-starrer “Personal Shopper,” Olivier Assayas, president of Locarno’s main International Competition jury, will return to the French language for his next film, tentatively-entitled “E-book,” starring Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet, Vincent Macaigne, Christa Theret and Pascal Gregory.
Assayas’ films have been comedic at times, sometimes ironic. But, par for a director whose 17 features range from coming-of-age dramas, such as “Late August, Early September,” to “Demonlover,” set in a world of 3D manga pornography, or “Carlos,” a frenetic true-fact-based political thriller, or “Personal Shopper,” a ghost story, “E-book” once more explores new territory as a more full-blown comedy, here set in a Parisian publishing world. Charles Gilibert, Assayas’ regular producer, produces “E-book” for CG Cinema.
“‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ was a kind of comedy. This is a step further in that direction,” Assayas said at Locarno, ready for jury duty. The film will also be “very much actor and dialogue-driven, part film, part narrative, part essay.”
Despite his vast range, “E-book” looks set to plumb a subject close to Assayas’ heart: “How we adapt or don’t adapt to the way the world’s changing,” explored via “a series of intimate conversations,” middle-aged characters, and their affairs.
Assayas added: “I’ve always been interested in the capacity of cinema to capture the world as it is changing. Transformation is one of the themes of filmmaking and always has been because of the documentary nature of cinema.”
“E-book’s” style is yet to be determined. Few directors deliver better a sense at times of cinema shot with a lightweight camera – weaving and bobbing past people or city traffic as it attempts to keep up with on-the-move characters.
Yet, Assayas said, “I’ve always been extremely narrative-driven. Whatever my films have in common, the style I use for a specific film is something that comes from the subject matter.”
“I don’t have a preconceived plans about what the movie I am going to shoot will look like. Day after day, it kind of grows and becomes obvious after a few days. I’m always very bad at pitching my films because I need to have all the elements to be sure of what I’m doing,” he observed.
That may explain why Assayas’ movies – think 2012’s “Something in the Air” and “Personal Shopper” – pack such powerful endings, with Assayas able to tease out with full knowledge the emotional sense of his film..
“I think that when I understand where the film is leading me, I know what the film is,” he said.
Nor does Assayas bring any preconceived plans to his role as president of a 2017 Locarno main jury whose members also take in Portuguese director Miguel Gomes (“Tabu,” “Arabian Nights”), and Greek producer Christos Konstantakopoulus, (“Park,” “Lobster,” “Knight of Cups”). Also doing jury service are Swiss director Jean-Stéphane Bron, whose latest documentary “L’Opera” was one of the most popular titles at this year’s UniFrance Rendez-vous in Paris, and Austrian actress Birgit Minichmayr (“Downfall,” “Perfume” “The White Ribbon”).
“I don’t see myself being boss of the jury,” said Assayas. Rather, “it’s exciting to discuss where cinema is, which direction cinema is going, and how new films coming to Locarno are in touch with that.”
He went on: “When you make movies – and I think it’s the same in any art – ultimately you crave discussion. We are all very lonely in one way or another: You get few chances to have those kind of exciting frontal conversations about contemporary cinema.”
“In the coming weeks,” Assayas said, he will deliver a screenplay for “Wasp Network,” produced by CG Cinema and Rodrigo Teixeira’s RT Features in Brazil, which will follow on “E-book,” shooting next year. “The research and writing process has been very long since it’s something I’m not very familiar with,” he explained.
But then, for Assayas, “what is exciting for me in moviemaking is to do something I don’t know how to do. I need to learn something because I am giving a lot to the movies. But I think movies need to give something back to me in terms of my understanding of the world.”