Photo: IFC Films
by Luke Gorham Film Horizon Line

Non-Fiction | Olivier Assayas

June 13, 2019

More generationally distinctive than his recent output, Olivier Assayas’s latest, Non-Fiction, engages with a specific vein of cultural discourse regarding technology: e-books as a corruption of literature. Of course, this is a synecdochical take on a far broader conversation, the particulars of which are often fleshed-out in café-set debates and workplace dialogues, the film populated by characters at the cross-section of middle class and middle age. Gradations of ethical behavior clearly inspired by the Karl Ove Knausgård controversy serve as gyroscopic explorations of these characters, while a gentle class critique emerges in the perceived yuppie resistance to technological change and its levelling effects. The tenor of inquiry and general languidness of approach here feels more akin to early-aughts Assayas (think Late August, Early September), but with his preferred explorations of ennui transplanted from arrested early adulthood to that peculiar limbo of middle age, where evolutions of society and personhood are in conflict and where individuals either choose change or suffer it. Non-Fiction largely manages to balance this contemplativeness with a certain playful buoyancy, but loses cogency when it skews broad in its final stretch (a winking, meta-referential Juliette Binoche joke feels particularly miscalculated despite engendering a chuckle), resulting in a film that feels familiar but less assured than Assayas’s other recent work.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | Issue 5.