The characters may haunt cafes and turn their love lives into a deconstructionist talk show, but the most resonant element in Late August, Early September, Olivier Assayas’ drama about a group of wayward middle-class Parisians in their 30s and 40s, is the French quality that’s not there: the poetic idealism — the belief that life is something more than work and money and secular therapeutic ”relationships.” The dying embers of that fire can be found in Adrien (Francois Cluzet), a once-promising novelist who tries to come to grips with the limits of his talent as he fights a possibly fatal disease. What happens to Adrien sends an invisible shock wave through his circle of friends.
Assayas, who made the excruciating Irma Vep, here seems a reborn filmmaker; he observes these aging Left Bank capitalists with a sagacity that verges on the tender. With its anecdotal flow of sex, camaraderie, and despair, Late August, Early September carries the quiet force of a cultural lament. Its haunting upshot is that in an age when even artists are defined by their investment choices, Paris, more than anywhere else, is doomed to be a yuppie shadowland. A-