Briefly: Late August, Early September, which plays tonight at BAM as their Assayas retro winds down, is the kind of movie you kick yourself after seeing for the first time, for not having had it in your life before now. The title refers less to the movie’s time frame (it actually spans a year) than its mood—like Ozu’s many seasonal films, it’s an elegy with an airy touch (the light-sensitive cinematographer is Denis Lenoir, who most recently shot Carlos for Assayas, and the quietly ruminative music is by Ali Farka Touré), as Assayas follows a dying novelist (Francois Cluzet) and the circle of old friends and former lovers around him and his de facto executor (Mathieu Amalric, just breaking out). What’s nearly unique (and singularly marvelous) about the film is its way of letting you learn new things about the people in it—their relationships, their pasts, what their characters portend for their futures—in every scene. It’s a fully living organism—which is to say, a dying one.
In long walks and over food and drinks, thirty- or fortysomething artistic types talk around their awareness of the suddenly far more permanent nature of their choices, even as the film is ruefully honest about the way middle-aged men like Cluzet and Amalric’s characters are drawn to younger women (one played by Mia Hansen-Løve, then a teenager, now Assayas’s husband and herself an accomplished filmmaker), as a second chance at youth, a tacit acknowledgment not just that adulthood is disappointing but that youth was, too.