Late August, Early September (1998)

I had planned to write a full response to Olivier Assayas’ Late August, Early September, but when I sat down to do so I realized that I just didn’t have much to say. It’s a smart enough film — well made, finely acted, and a pleasure to watch — but like, say, one of Rohmer’s late comedies, the charm of Late August is found almost entirely in its characters (all of whom are likeable enough and three-dimensional enough) and in the smart things they say to one another. They twist themselves in existential knots, struggling to balance their idealized visions of integrity with the muddy necessity: compromise. They try to love themselves and others, in that order. They smoke. And drink wine. It’s all captured in cool-filtered, hand-held 16mm, and there are some fun, self-referential lines about gauging artistic success based upon the size of one’s audience. All in all, I would call it a pleasant and mostly forgettable distraction.