Olivier Assayas’s Carlos opens with a disclaimer noting the necessary fictionalization of certain elements of the following story even though the overall project aimed for historical fidelity. Disclaimers are banal, cinematic elements usually not remarked upon, but as with everything we see in a film, someone had to choose to include it and select what specific words and phrasing to employ. When this kind of text begins the new work by Assayas, a filmmaker always assiduously attuned to every piece of the cinematic machine, we should pay attention. Clearly the filmmaker wants us to immediately recognize the dangers inherent in using a movie to navigate the life of any historical figure, much less one with as rich and varied a saga as that of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the aspiring Venezuelan revolutionary who would go on to become the landless international terrorist and mercenary Carlos “The Jackal.” We should recognize these dangers, and in this state of heightened awareness, view Carlos appropriately—as a mix of images standing in for facts and other images the results of carefully conceived fictions. Read Jeff Reichert’s review of Carlos.
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