After his epic undertaking of rethinking Irma Vep for a new generation, Olivier Assayas premiered the small-scale Suspended Time at Berlinale earlier this year, but now the French director is back to working on a bigger canvas. He’s unveiled his next project, an adaptation of Giuliano da Empoli’s The Wizard of the Kremlin, with quite a cast.

Paul Dano, his Irma Vep lead Alicia Vikander, Jude Law, Zach Galifianakis, and Tom Sturridge will star in the film, co-written by Assayas and Emmanuel Carrère. Here’s the synopsis: “The story opens in Russia, in the early 1990’s, in the aftermath of the USSR’s collapse. In a new world that promises freedom and flirts with chaos, a young artist-turned-TV producer, Vadim Baranov, unexpectedly becomes the spin doctor of a promising member of the FSB (ex-KGB), Vladimir Putin. Working at the heart of Russian power, Baranov blurs truth with lies, the news with propaganda, directing the entire society like one great reality show. Only his love for the magnetic, free-minded Ksenia can turn him away from this dangerous game. The Wizard of the Kremlin sets out to tell Baranov’s story, and through his eyes, tell the dark secrets of the regime he helped build.”

“Beyond the passions of men navigating the dangerous fluxes of modern politics, we see the powerful cinematic sweep of History in the making. It’s drama, it’s action, it’s about trying to make sense of the chaos that is transforming our world in the strangest, most disturbing ways,” notes Assayas.

Rory O’Connor said in his Berlinale review of Assayas’ latest, “The ease with which Assayas switches between his digressions and the central narrative is seamless, and perhaps wouldn’t have been quite so without the endearing, magnetic presence of Macaigne––an actor who has been giving receding hairlines a good name for more than a decade. In Suspended Time, he gets to lend his voice to Assayas’ appreciation for Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood and Bob Dylan’s epic ‘Murder Most Foul’ with the kind of irresistible energy that made me first fall in love with him in Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden––wherein he delivered a mini-lecture on the merits of Showgirls long before that take was treated as canon. As Paul, he makes the somewhat age-eccentric romance with d’Urso’s Morgane appear fully believable, and Assayas almost allows them to close out the final chapter in romantic accord, only to throw us back in for a bittersweet epilogue. Here, a charming cameo from the young actress who plays Paul’s daughter rounds out a film in which the director’s passions and personal history seem less like the flavoring than the substance. It’s good to have him back.”

See a new French trailer for his latest film below.

No more articles