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Pola X

Posted by martinteller on June 2, 2013

Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) is a young writer with a cult hit novel published under the pseudonym “Aladin”.  He lives in a huge estate with his mother Marie (Catherine Deneuve).  The two have an unusually close — one might guess incestuous — relationship.  Pierre is engaged to his cousin Lucie (Delphine Chuillot).  Also in the mix is jealous cousin Thibault (Laurent Lucas).  Pierre’s world is shaken when he sees a vagrant girl (Yekaterina Golubeva) and recognizes her from an incident in his past.  He catches her in the forest and she tells him that she is his half-sister Isabelle, taken away after Pierre’s birth and raised by a strange elderly couple.  Pierre is swept away by Isabelle, and disgusted by the family’s hidden secrets, and drops his entire life.  He whisks Isabelle off to Paris, lives in a warehouse and tries to write a novel that will shake things up.

The film is based on Herman Meville’s Pierre, or, the Ambiguities, which in French translation forms the acronym “Pola”.  The “X” refers to the tenth draft of the screenplay.  It appears to be Leos Carax’s most maligned film.  I imagine some of the negativity is from people who came mainly for the graphic sex scene (which, like most sex scenes, is unnecessary, and none the more necessary for its explicitness).  But even among Carax fans it doesn’t appear to be very well regarded.

I didn’t think it was that bad.  Granted, it doesn’t have the transcendent moments of the other Carax I’ve seen (“Modern Love” in Mauvais Sang, the accordion march in Holy Motors, speedboat scene in Lovers on the Bridge).  And granted, Carax’s muse/alter ego/favorite actor Denis Levant is nowhere to be found.  And also granted, it’s rather hard to figure out what Carax is getting at, if anything.

But I thought it was pretty interesting.  If there aren’t any “transcendent” moments, there are at least a few very compelling and surprising ones.  As Pierre spirals down this road of tragedy and cluelessness, the movie ratchets up in insanity and intensity.  Carax’s propensity for raging passions infuses the whole film, it has that rush of all-consuming emotions.

It’s not as satisfying as Carax’s other films, and as of now I rank it as his weakest, but there’s definitely something to it that kept me engaged.  It’s an experience.  Rating: Good (74)


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