Summer Hours is what’s generally referred to as a “small” film, but for Olivier Assayas, it represents a comfortable return to form after several self-conscious attempts at rethinking and reinventing the boundaries of his work. Demonlover was a sort-of thriller about the international sex trade; Clean was a combination Anglo/Francophone recovery drama; and Boarding Gate was aggressively marketed as a globetrotting thriller about a girl (Asia Argento) with a gun and a paucity of clothing. I haven’t seen Boarding Gate (yet), but Demonlover and Clean both felt like somewhat contrived exercises in arthouse empire-building.
I’m not sure when, exactly, Olivier Assayas became an eccentric – I
catch any warning signs in Late August, Early
September; then again,
I was a bit discomfited by Irma Vep, which was as much an
essay on the filmmaking industry as it was (or was not, quite) a compelling
narrative. With 2002’s Demonlover, a weirdly moralistic screed
involving global corporate intrigue, sexually explicit anime and Internet
porn, he veered into reactionary territory, dramatizing the dehumanizing,
exploitative power of the Web in much the same way David Cronenberg
once made a scary monster out of cable television in Videodrome.