Nora Von Waldstatten
Carlos (Édgar Ramírez, brilliant) is most famous for the 1975 raid at OPEC headquarters, where dozens of hostages--and three lives--were taken in the name of the Palestinian cause, whose troubles, he said, “should take an international level.” (The film itself takes such level, with eight languages spoken and even more countries shot in.) This key moment in Carlos’ timeline lasts a tense 30 minutes, but as the movie drags on and on, the bored start to wonder if a film based solely on the OPEC raid could have just as well illustrated who Carlos was.
The greatest problem with Carlos, perhaps predictably for anyone who noted the five-and-a-half-hour runtime, is exactly what initially scared its director, Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours): it is “too crazy and too complicated.” At 339 minutes, Carlos has too much going on, even though details of the first 20 years of his life are left out. It, too, is extremely difficult to follow, even with the aid of so much expository dialogue.
There is a 140-minute cut that is no doubt tighter and more focused. Could it be better? Maybe. It wouldn’t have gotten all of its Cannes praise or its Golden Globe, but it has to be easier to sit through. That’s 200 minutes shaved off of an epic that, while covering so much, somehow lacks the ambition to make its main character anything more than the same kind of self-destructive gangster-type that’s been seen countless times: He starts small, aims high, alienates quickly, and falls hard.
How are we supposed to care about the man? He, unlike many of his comrades, is less interested in the cause than he is in fame, money and sex. Watching Carlos like witnessing the horniest kid in class running for president; not to help plan the senior trip, but to see his name plastered all over the hallways.
Yes, Carlos, we have heard of you.
Selected-scene commentary: Cinematographer Denis Lenoir goes into the technical aspects of shooting Carlos.
Olivier Assayas (43:01): In this extensive interview shot in Paris, the director discusses the character of Carlos, the evolution of the project, his approach to the story, the soundtrack, and much more.
Édgar Ramírez (19:42): Here, the star of Carlos talks about who Carlos is, the research that went into portraying the man, the weight gain, and more.
Denis Lenoir (13:28): Lenoir, one of two cinematographers used in the making of the film, speaks on the rue Toullier and OPEC sequences, the role of the director of photography, his approach to the job, and more.
Carlos: Terrorist Without Borders (58:32): This documentary, which first aired in France in 1997, details the life and times of Carlos from 1970 to 1994, when he was imprisoned.
Hans-Joachim Klein (38:32): In this fascinating 1995 interview, producer Daniel Leconte sits down with a disguised Klen (aka Angie), who reflects on his parents complicated past, his days with Carlos and living in hiding. One of the best supplements in the set.
Maison de France (1:28:34): Directed by Stefan Suchalla, this documentary “recounts the story of the 1983 bombing of the Maison de France in West Berlin, an act against the French state orchestrated by Johannes Weinrich on behalf of Carlos.” Surprisingly, this significant event was not featured much in Carlos.
Also included with this Criterion Blu-ray is a 40-page booklet featuring an essay titled “Sudden Death” by critic Colin MacCabe, one titled “What the Film Wanted” by critic Greil Marcus and “The History Behind Carlos,” a timeline by the film’s historical adviser Stephen Smith.