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The sublime Late August, Early September, a story of a quartet of Parisian adults (young and not so young) grappling with love, indecision, and crises of confidence, is not titled for a time of year but for a feeling, a tone, and a sense of passage. Self-conscious, shy writer Mathieu Amalric (My Sex Life...) is fast approaching 30 and furiously second guessing every step he makes. He's broken it off with delightfully gawky yet graceful Jeanne Balibar and is in the midst of an affair with the wild Virginie Ledoyen (The Beach), a sexy, young, sweet-and-sour girl with the temper of a diva. Francois Cluzet (Round Midnight), a cult author with a teenage girlfriend, is the old man of the bunch and an uncomfortable mentor to Amalric.
Shooting with a restless camera that bobs around searching for a better look, and fading out of scenes before they end, as if life continues on past our privileged peek, Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep) has an unusual and unique style. It's like he catches his characters off guard, capturing moments of hesitation and discomfort, when the social front can't quite hide their fears and frustrations. All the better to appreciate their little triumphs. Not much really "happens" in the drama, but the quirky Assayas beautifully captures a portrait in messy emotions, inarticulation, and contradiction with modesty and sympathy. --Sean Axmaker
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