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Driven: The Films of Olivier Assayas

Like the founders of the French New Wave, Olivier Assayas (b.1955) discovered the cinema first as a critic writing for the influential journal Cahiers du cinéma. The dynamic eclecticism Assayas would evince in his filmmaking is already fully legible in his criticism, which focuses with equal insight on a diverse range of directors from Ingmar Bergman and Kenneth Anger to Hou Hsiao-Hsien and King Hu.

And like the New Wave directors, Assayas' films are inspired both by art cinema and popular culture, intertwining currents from "high" and "low." In place of the Hollywood B-movie beloved by the nouvelle vague, Assayas channels the gritty energy of punk and post-punk culture and Asian genre films, mixed with quieter strains of East Asian hip and cool. While Assayas is well-schooled in the venerated canon of of postwar world cinema (Bresson and Visconti, Ozu and Mizoguchi), his work also gravitates markedly towards the avant-gardist margins (especially Anger and Warhol, but also the Situationists) and the perennially young "new waves" of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In a filmmaking career now more than twenty years old (including mid-1980s screenplays directed by André Téchiné), Assayas has consistently conveyed an active imagination and a continued fascination with the dynamics of love, lust and affection, with misfits and criminals, and with cinema's unique ability to make them all real.