Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Carlos" (2010)

"I'm not talking about the Algerians, I'm talking about the Syrians." Gist of the film. We do not ever know, really, what they talk about; we just flow with it, expecting hijinks of all kinds. The seriousness of the events, I think, is meant to be questioned, and this is the boldest move Assayas makes: because Carlos is a jackal after all, a terrorist, a cold-blooded murderer. The film prides itself on daytripping, nightsurfing, from country to country: and this constancy in flight is accompanied by a constancy in disorientation. Europe and the Middle East mainly; but the scenes and plot segments flow into each other seamlessly -- "historically" -- and this may or may not be the film's virtue (one forgets it was, after all, a television miniseries: hence the length, hence the painfully blundering final segment). Structurally speaking, if we consider the positive-negative mirroring that worked so well in Soderbergh's Che, Carlos will appear as much a failure in exercise as the real man was in comparison to the real Guevara: the revolutionary principles which made Che so monumental were swiftly taken over, in the figure of the jackal, by the cynicism of pop art.

A lot of postpunk (Wire mainly) suffuses the film with an aura of pop-star impenetrability; Carlos is meant to be taken as a pop-star of a kind, a terrorist who finds himself sufficiently justified by the media attention he attracts. "They would pay very well for my head." That seems to be the only reason for his existence: media and the cult of death that surrounds the making of every pop idol. The last segment is a lame cough, a stumble and tumble, a pathetic overweight fall in comparison with the exhilaration of the first two parts. It all ends, as the "15 mins" tend to do for the reality TV star, in swollen testicles, paralysis, and easy capture.