French filmmaker Olivier Assayas might be one of the very few middle-aged movie directors who doesn’t seem to be afraid of change as exemplified by the digital progress of art in society.
While watching his latest film, Non-Fiction, I discovered a couple of things. First, Juliette Binoche is mildly typecasting herself as an overly promiscuous middle-aged woman too self-aware of her mortality. Between Let the Sunshine In (2017), High Life (2018) and now Non-Fiction, it’s quite an interesting career path to say the least.
Like most actresses from France, Binoche has never shied away from playing sexual roles on screen. But to me, she is most interesting in such humble features as Chocolat (2000) and Dan in Real Life (2007).
Second, on a surface level, and certainly through the marketing of the movie, Non-Fiction appears to be just another French sex romp with affairs and mid-life crises. Some have been comparing it to Woody Allen’s classic films, which is ironic, since Allen’s transition from slapstick comedy to neurotic romcoms was considered the American answer to European cinema in the 1950s.
But one thing that makes Assayas’ current film different than Allen’s is how unafraid he is of technology. In Allen’s films, his leads are usually blatantly vocal about not being in touch with modern technology, and their points of view are fundamental to the theme. In Non-Fiction, however, the middle-aged characters are reluctant to accept that hard-copy literature is slowly dying, but the Millennial characters convince them that it’s not the end of the world.
It’s strange and will take time for the older writers and readers to accept, but there are worse things to worry about in life. Like how everyone in the film is sleeping with everyone else.
This is a rather bold perspective for an artist over 60, when most filmmakers over 40 are holding on to celluloid and movie theaters as long as they can. There have been some exceptions, like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg, all of whom are open to new technology in film.
Maybe Assayas is one of them too. Or maybe he just likes reading E-books. Whatever the case, he does have this unique, intriguing take on how show business and art people operate behind the scenes, as we previously saw in Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016). And he currently has a new fan looking forward to his next project.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.