Sunday, October 3, 2010

SFFS Brings CARLOS to San Francisco

By far the most exciting news for Bay Area cinephiles this week was the announcement that the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) will bring Olivier Assayas' critically acclaimed Carlos to its Sundance Kabuki screen for a one-week run on November 5. What's more, it'll be the full 5 1/2 hour version, shown in two parts with a 15-minute intermission. There will be two shows daily at 12:15 and 6:45.

I was really starting to worry. I knew the film was being aired in three parts on The Sundance Channel from October 11 to 14, followed by IFC's VOD roll-out of a truncated 140-minute version on October 20. The U.S. theatrical release is scheduled for NYC's IFC Center (in a special Roadshow Edition) on October 15. But what about those of us in the Bay Area craving the full-on, big screen
Carlos experience? I kept waiting for it to pop up on Landmark Theater's list of autumn releases, but that wasn't happening. So what a relief to have the SFFS insert it in the middle of their busy 2010 Fall Season.

One caveat, however, is that Carlos will be projected digitally (Blu-ray) and not in 35mm. But at least we're not alone in that respect. From what I've ascertained, it appears that the 5 1/2 hour theatrical release is only available in digital format, which is a shame considering that this made-for-French-TV mini-series was actually shot on film. The movie was even shown digitally at its Cannes premiere, a fact which so annoyed NY Times critic Manohla Dargis she felt compelled to blog about it. But as the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern wrote, Carlos is "a textbook case of the total immersion that one can enjoy only in a theatrical setting." Given the choice of watching Carlos over the course of three days on The Sundance Channel, or (gasp) watching a chopped up version On Demand, or (double gasp) waiting for the lord-knows-when DVD release, there's no question that the SFFS presentation at the Kabuki is the way to go, digital be damned.

For those not in the know, Carlos is a sprawling, yet tightly wound biopic about one Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, the notorious and charismatic Venezuelan who orchestrated a series of terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East throughout the '70s and '80s. It stars Édgar Ramírez, whom Variety's Todd McCarthy claims "inhabits the title role with the arrogant charisma of Brando in his prime." The film was part of the Official Selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival, but was controversially screened out of competition due to its TV connections (thereby rendering it ineligible for any of the festival's prizes). Writing in Film Comment, J. Hoberman called Carlos "possibly the most universally admired movie among the Cannes Film Festival’s official selections." Over at MUBI, David Hudson compiles the (mostly) rave reviews from the Cannes and New York Film Festivals. Also well worth checking out is The Sundance Channel's Carlos site, which contains reviews, profiles, synopses, photos and video. Below is the official trailer.

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