The book is really beautiful: the layout is terrific, the illustrations fantastic, well-chosen; it's truly a wonderful package. I'm proud and honored to be a part of it, and particularly chuffed that Kent asked me to write on Olivier's first feature film, Désordre, an essential movie for anyone whose life has been at least partially consumed by rock and roll.
Here is a passage from my essay on the film, which I titled "Black Boxes:"
Artistic genius is hard to simulate in cinema, as is actual artistic process. I once knew a painter who told me that she didn’t much care for fictional films about visual artists and that every movie about a painter she’d ever seen, with the exception of Scorsese’s Life Lessons in New York Stories, got the actual act of painting completely wrong. As far as music is concerned, it’s not for nothing that Clint Eastwood largely stuck to Charlie Parker’s own saxophone solos for his fictional biopic of the musician, Bird. It is no fault of Robert De Niro that he doesn’t quite convince as even a journeyman sax player in Scorsese’s New York, New York, whereas his counterpoint Liza Minnelli is exactly right playing a singer of the precise dimensions and talent of…Liza Minnelli. We do not hear enough of Yvan and Henri’s band to come to any musically-based conclusion about them (their sole song is the invention of an actual combo called Les Avions). It is pretty clear that Yvan does have a post-punk charisma but a style that’s about four or five years out of date by London or New York standards (albeit cutting-edge for the Continent). We learn that the band does have some major-label interest, and Assayas is pretty casually accurate about how the tendrils of corporate rock reached down via seedy managers and indie record stores to scoop up talent; the viewer never gets into the corridors of real power the high windows and the prestige and the money are all tantalizing rumors, like those of the afterlife. (Even in Assayas’ 2004 Clean, whose protagonist is the one-time manager and now widow of an overdosed rocker, the “industry” is seen from something of a remove, in this case an inverted Eden from which its protagonist has been expelled.)
But back to the act that, it would seem, throws everything into disorder: it’s significant that the viewer is never made privy to the actual logic behind it. Yeah, it’s clear in a sense; if you’re in a band, you need gear, and stealing gear is kind of a rock and roll, and particularly punk and/or post punk tradition; Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones more than once jocularly bragged about how his own setup fell off a truck after a Faces or Roxy Music show. But these aren’t such street kids, all that needy; Assayas makes a point, not very long after the botched robbery, of depicting an exchange between the band’s keyboardist Gabriel (Simon de La Brosse) and his father (Phillip Laudenbach). Gabriel’s tried to steal some cash from dad, much in the style of Patrick in Truffaut’s Les Quatre-cent coups, and here it’s kind of pathetic rather than shocking/cute because Gabriel’s a young adult; in any case, Gabriel’s dad finds him out, and barely taking a break in his toilette, gives him a little talking to, imperiously offering to write the kid a check as he strips down to enter his bath.
You see that I do that thing that some American cinephiles give other American cinephiles a hard time about: using the original-language title of a film. Well, fuck it. The book is in fact an international publication after all so American cinephile anti-"pretention" rules don't apply. (Sorry, does that sound too Wellsian?)
As a companion piece to the monograph, the Film Museum is also publishing an English translation of Assayas' sui generis A Post-May Adolescence. Watch this space for word on any upcoming readings or whatnots.