On Assayas' "Boarding Gate"

Olivier Assayas' "Boarding Gate" is exquisite, smart, and devastating. It is beautiful and reminds me of Wong Kar Wai's shots of Hong Kong — the lights, colors, reflections. Some might find the film difficult or slow; it does not give us the back story; things are not explained. We are privy only to the relations on screen, all of which assume events that have happened but which we will never know or witness.

The story, for Assayas, is irrelevant because this is not a story about people. It is a map of relations and the terms of the those relations. And the new terms, the dominant terms, don't give a fuck about sentiment or the past. The film gives us the malaise, the daze, of contemporary global capitalism — jet lag, capital exchange, identity blurred then phased out entirely. If it can't be exchanged, it isn't.

We're never quite sure what is being made and sold — what's legal and illegal becomes irrelevant: it's all the flow of money and goods. Such is the economy of quantity, of impersonal exchange, cash as the ultimate abstraction that effaces affect and, in the end, personhood.

And poor Asia Argento (Sandra) — the last stand of humanity, of passion, of affect. She feels, she longs, she loves, she pines. She is certainly immoral if not amoral. But in the world of capitalism, these things mean nothing. She thinks she's playing one game but there's another game she doesn't ever understand or even see — the game of capital exchange, the devastating indifference of it all, the even cool calculating will to more, to profit, to quantity.

In "Post-Cinematic Affect," Steven Shaviro does a good, thorough reading of the film. But he reads the end of the film quite differently that I do. For Shaviro, her restraint affirms her humanity over and against the dehumanizing will of capital exchange. The blur at the end is her choosing another line of flight.

I read it quite differently: the blur is her disappearance. There is no place for her passion, her lust, her rage in this world. The economy of quantity has eclipsed the economy of affect. She has been used; they are done with her; she is disappeared. The final shot of this film rips my heart and soul out every time.


Pierre said...

I imagined to speak about parisian women " qui font chier à toujours se la pêter " ( which may be translate by " fucking parisian women (of my mother city) who are so pretentious ( especially when they play root girls while they own their flat at 18)).

But i want to say that assayas is a great old surprise. He doesn't play, he shows on screen what he sincerly sees with his eyes. He doesn't try to be sophistiicated, he hates, because he knows what it is, common ideas, easy and popular lasy points of vue. He doesn't make a police movie with clues, he shows a box of matches all along the movie because with out signs, before myths and stories, humanity couldn't go forward.

"And the new terms, the dominant terms, don't give a fuck about sentiment or the past"

yes. But, please, Daniel, watch transylvania, with Dasia argento too, by Tony Gatlif, the mythic gipsy film maker. I met him, by the way. Freedom may some time deserve hardness, and hardness becomes some time a gift you understand only later

Pierre said...

if I may add something, I would also say that Transylvania is one of the not so many movies where you see a a man on screen, not a precious actor pretending to be a man acting it. A man. May be two in the movie. I have my theory about why TG knows how to do that, but he doesn't like to communicate about this part of his personnality.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Hey — thanks for the Transylvania tip — though it seems hard to track down in the States....I'll track it down.

As for Assayas, Irma Vep, Boarding Gate, Carlos, Demon Lover: so fucking smart. He understands film and he understands the contemporary moment so well. I love that he is deploying an argument, almost like Houellebecq does in prose, book after book.

Anonymous said...

Glad I found my way back to this site. I can't wait to devour one of your future books.

dustygravel said...

yeah Coffeen, when are you going to write a book?
On tast?
On the limit?
on affective states?
On circumstances proprietary?
maybe a novel or collection of short stories?

Dr. Carey said...

Great Stuff. Don't forget to re-size youtube embeds so they don't block your side-frame. or get cut off...