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Sunday, October 17, 2010

BFI Film Festival: Carlos

There and back again at the 54th British Film Institute London Film Festival, with the 1st movie for reviewing being a challenging one, in the sense that it lasts approximately 5 hours and a mere 25 minutes! In addition to that, there was a healthy Q&A session with star Edgar Ramirez as the titular character, which made the total experience last about 6,5 hours! Here you can see (or maybe guess) with your very eyes Ramirez at the Q&A session in BLUR-O-VISION:

The film itself consists of 3 parts, each one lasting almost two hours. The 1st part roughly covers Carlos' first steps into international terrorism while fighting for the Palestinian cause, the 2nd mostly focuses on the hostage negotiations during the OPEC meeting , and the 3rd part on his eventual decline and arrest. Although the film initially seems to closely stick to the typical origin-power-decline biopic formula, its sheer length forces the narrative to become more fragmented and episodic in nature (which is actually a good thing). So the film actually flips back and forth from action-packed set pieces to political conversations and international espionage and vice versa, thus keeping some freshness and non-predictability.

Olivier Assayas, the film's director chooses to expand the scale as much as possible, filming in 8 languages in numerous countries, making the end result an incredible undertaking by itself. Although the film was originally shot for TV, Assayas wisely shoots with 35mm cameras and in 2.35:1, and the result is positively cinematic. His directing style switches from cinéma vérité to highly stylized montages, and suitably changes his approach depending on the country set (thus, East Germany really feels different compared to Yemen, England, Chartum, France, Libya...) Edgar Ramirez attempts to create his own version of Carlos, which is actually a mix from journal investigations, personal interviews, and media coverage, covering roughly 20 years into his life; his weight gains/losses are also impressive. A strong cast of international actors contemplates him very nicely, aiming mostly on authenticity. All in all, a difficult experience to endure due to its length, but highly rewarding. 8/10

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