Life is fragile and fleeting, along with everything in it—and that includes male friendships as well as romantic relationships. Writer-director Olivier Assayas has created a complex masterpiece with his brilliantly scripted tragicomedy Fin août, début septembre, one whose especial focus consists of two relationships in which Gabriel participates. Gabriel is a young man who doesn’t quite know how to use his literary interest and expertise in terms of employment. He is at loose ends also in romance, leaving one partner, Jenny, for another, Anne (Virginie Ledoyen, marvelous), whom he is slow to realize he deeply loves and whose challenging forwardness covers her insecurities. Gabriel is friends with Adrien, a few-times published novelist whom he admires. They are scarcely in sync. Gabriel is selfconscious but not really self-aware, while Adrien is keenly self-aware but not selfconscious. Adrien also lacks self-confidence, while part of Gabriel’s self-confidence derives from his knowledge that Adrien lacks it. The high intelligence of either allows him to negotiate the gap between the qualities he possesses and the ones he lacks. Adrien falls deathly ill, coalescing his philosophical disposition while Gabriel, with so much in his life remaining unresolved, fails to respond adequately to this friend of his. Indeed, it is eventually revealed how competitive Gabriel is with Adrien. We see this, but it is doubtful that Gabriel does.
If one grasps their implications, the film’s final few moments overflow with stunning, heart-piercing revelation.
Assayas’s quick, light use of hand-held camera is correlative to the quick, light mortal breeze permeating the lives of his characters, except for Adrien’s secret 15-year-old mistress middle-aging men and women who are constantly taking the pulse of their lingering youth and promise.
Mathieu Amalric plays Gabriel. His tremendous performance is among the greatest in cinema.
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