Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Film director, screenwriter and critic Olivier Assayas was in Pune, India, as part of the first Pune Film Treasures Festival (March 17 - 20, 2008).
I had a chance to speak with him.

For Olivier Assayas, Asian films are “the most precious” film cultures of the world. The man, who dealt with Asian films extensively, mentions Chinese films of Taiwan and vouches for their richness. He also refers to the greatness of Satyajit Ray’s creativity that have influenced filmmakers across the world.

Comparing French films with the rest of the film world Assayas says different cultures and genres in French films are well pronounced. “There are different layers – experimental, radical and the like,” he explains. But the industry there is comparatively in small scale, he says, adding though, there are “more commercial films in France now” than before. However, he adds a word of caution. Commercialisation may lead to “lesser space for independent films” and independent filmmakers “will have to learn to survive in hostile atmosphere.”

As part of writing assignments, Olivier Assayas thoroughly studied the Special Effects in 1981-82. “I studied it in a different context,” he informs. And from his knowledge and experience as a filmmaker Assayas says, Special Effects are “transforming the culture of cinema.” When asked to elaborate, he says that the technique has been “swallowing lot of films and that’s not for better.” He sounds slightly pessimistic as he says that lot of viewers are “more interested in techniques rather than the human values that the films can propagate.”

We ask Assayas about his transition from being a film writer to a director and he laughs. “I never considered myself as a critic as such,” he says. Then he goes back in time to give the backgrounder. He was initially into making short films. This led him to interact with film writers in France. Being son of film director father (Jacques Remy) must have influenced young Assayas’ ability to look at the films from a different perspective and the writers realised the potential in young man. Assayas thus began writing in noted French film magazine Cahiers du cinema and continued with his writing between 1980 and 1985.

The stint gave him the “opportunity to learn a lot of film history, participate in film festivals and meet filmmakers from across the globe.” That in turn helped him “get connected with international film culture.” Assayas admits, without his experience as a film writer he would have been “left as a na├»ve filmmaker.”

When asked about ideal qualities that the budding filmmakers must nurture, Assayas stresses on the importance to “protect their freedom, define their own style, act with courage and boldness.”

Talking about his recent projects Assayas informs about the film Boarding Gate, a feature Summer Hours (“released two weeks ago”) and the documentary (on a French dance exponent) titled El Dorado. “As of now I am on vacation,” he says, adding, he will “love” to work in India with Indian actors and experts. “But it all depends on the opportune moment when it comes,” he adds.