I’ll be getting more into Olivier Assayas’ Carlos, the three-part, five-hour-plus drama about pro-Palestinian activist turned opportunistic mercenary/terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (played by Edgar Ramirez) that’s unfurling on a variety of platforms in different iterations this October, in the coming days. But I submitted to the full Carlos experience this past Friday — with only two brief intermissions — and one thing that immediately struck me was that there are perhaps more cigarettes smoked in the full-length version of this movie than in the combined product of Hollywood for the past five or six years. Like, seriously. Straight up.
Assayas doesn’t so much fetishize the act itself (see David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, for instance), but neither is this just a case of one or two characters chain-smoking. All the characters seemingly smoke. There’s variety, too — angry smoking, nervous smoking, post-coital smoking, bored smoking, flirtatious smoking. And they don’t just hold cigarettes incidentally and passively, these folks, like someone absentmindedly rubbing their temple or adjusting their glasses. They draaaag, they put in the effort, really. There seem to be more cigarettes smoked in Carlos than Mitch McDeere drops crumpled $20 bills in The Firm. Which, for anyone who remembers John Grisham’s original text, is probably in the neighborhood of about 10,000.