The programmers at Doc Films have announced a few changes to their ongoing Olivier Assayas retrospective. Next Tuesday, November 26, they’ll present an encore screening of his Clean (2004), which played last week. And this Thursday at 7 PM, they’re replacing the previously scheduled Paris at Dawn (1991) with Assayas’s 1997 TV documentary about Hou Hsiao-Hsien—coincidentally, the subject of another Doc Films retrospective this quarter.
It’s too bad that Paris, Assayas’s third feature as director, is no longer on the slate, as it’s difficult to see any of his first four features in this country. (I’ve also had trouble tracking down Noise, his 2006 documentary about an experimental-music festival that features performances by Jeanne Balibar and members of Sonic Youth.) At the same time, HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien sounds like a worthy addition to the program—and not only because it forms a link with another series on the Doc calendar. Assayas wrote for Cahiers du cinema before he started making movies, though his film criticism isn’t as well-known to U.S. audiences as that of earlier Cahiers alums Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Among his accomplishments as a writer, Assayas was one of the first western critics to write about the so-called Taiwanese New Wave, the groundbreaking film movement in which Hou played a significant part. HHH should provide insight into Assayas’s critical practice as well as Hou’s life and career.