MoMA Honors French Director Assayas with Retrospective
by Brian Brooks
Next month at the MoMA Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan, The Museum of Modern Art will hold a retrospective of the work of French director Olivier Assayas. The series, which is set for September 18 – 21, will coincide with the release of the director’s latest film, “demonlover” on September 19th in New York and Los Angeles. The film, which features an original score by Sonic Youth, is the story of Diane, played by Connie Nielsen, who tries to undermine a deal between two multinationals, but discovers a connection between one of the groups and an interactive torture web site called, “The Hellfire Club.”
“‘demonlover,’ like Assayas’ body of work, both questions the nature of cinema and how we watch it, but [the film] is bound to be more controversial than any of his other films,” commented Ryan Werner, head of theatrical distribution at Palm Pictures (which is releasing the film), in a conversation with indieWIRE. “We wanted to start the discussion about ‘demonlover’ within the context of the series and within Olivier’s body of work which is almost non-existent on DVD except for the last three films.” Werner along with David Koh, head of acquisitions & productions, picked up the film at the American Film Market (AFM) earlier this year. Later, Werner approached MoMA about working on a retrospective, citing the theater’s crowds that frequent the new venue, particularly younger people, as a good place to showcase the director’s work.
The nine film series begins on September 18th with “Les Destinees sentimentales,” an adaptation of Jacques Chardonne’s semi-autobiographical novel set in pre World War II bourgeois France, which Assayas will introduce. Also in the series is youth-culture feature, “L’Eau froide” (Cold Water) which Werner called, “a must see.” The film brought Assayas wide international attention, but was never released in the United States.
The list of films included in the series are: “L’Enfant de l’hiver” (Winter’s Child), 1989; “Une Nouvelle Vie” (A New Life), 1989; “HHH, A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien,” “Fin aout, debut septembre” (Late August, Early September), 1998; “Paris s’eveille” (Paris Awakens), 1991 and “Irma Vep,” (1996). Also included will be a screening of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “Haishang Hua” (Flowers of Shanghai), added to the series because Hou is the subject of Assayas’ “HHH.” The retrospective will screen at the MoMA Gramercy Theatre through September 21st.