A young writer becomes intrigued with a mysterious dark-haired woman who claims to be his long-lost sister, starting an unusual relationship with her and prompting a downward spiral involving his domineering mother and lovely fiancée.
Pierre, a young man of privilege, whose anonymously-published novel is a hit and who's about to marry his blond cousin, Lucie, abandons all when a dark-haired vagrant tells him her secret late one night in the woods: that she is Isabelle, his sister, abandoned by their father. Pierre breaks off with Lucie and his doting mother, heading for Paris with Isabelle, intent on knowing the dark side of human nature. He begins a novel, sending chapters under a pseudonym to his publisher; his relationship with Isabelle moves beyond the fraternal; and, in winter, the frail Lucie comes to live with them. Family jealousies mount, and Pierre may have discovered despair instead of the truth.Written by
Be careful! You dream of writing a mature work, but your charm lies in your thorough immaturity. You dream of setting fire to God knows what, of rising above your times like a dazzling cloud, leaving everyone terrified and admiring. But you weren't born for that, Pierre! You don't even believe it yourself.
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An alternate longer TV version entitled "Pierre ou les ambiguïtés", edited in three one-hour episodes was shown for the first time on September 24, 2001 on 'Arte', the German-French TV channel. It has not been released yet. The 3-episodes-version is not only longer, but also closer to Carax' original concept, that the film should consist of 3 distinct parts: "The film was thought to be in three parts, three chapters. There's the one chapter in the countryside, called 'In the Light.' I knew this chapter would be light, it would be green and white, green for nature. I dyed all of the actors' hairs blonde and put them in white shirts. (...) So the film is going from light to darkness and rust. (...) So there was a conscious [decision] of going from light to dark, and from 35mm to 16mm." (Sept. 2000) See more »
To borrow from the film itself: "A raving morass that reeks of plagiarism."
I want very much to believe that the above quote (specifically, the English subtitle translation), which was actually written, not spoken, in a rejection letter a publisher sends to the protagonist, was meant to be self-referential in a tongue-in-cheek manner. But if so, director Leos Carax apparently neglected to inform the actors of the true nature of the film. They are all so dreadfully earnest in their portrayals that I have to conclude Carax actually takes himself seriously here, or else has so much disdain for everyone, especially the viewing audience, that he can't be bothered letting anyone in on the joke.
Some auteurs are able to get away with making oblique, bizarre films because they do so with élan and unique personal style (e.g., David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky). Others use a subtler approach while still weaving surreal elements into the fabric of the story (e.g., Krzysztof Kieslowski, and David Cronenberg's later, less bizarre works). In Pola X, Carax throws a disjointed mess at the viewer and then dares him to find fault with it. Well, here it is: the pacing is erratic and choppy, in particular continuity is often dispensed with; superfluous characters abound (e.g., the Gypsy mother and child); most of the performances are overwrought; the lighting is often poor, particularly in the oft-discussed sex scene; unconnected scenes are thrust into the film for no discernible reason; and the list goes on.
Not to be completely negative, it should be noted that there were some uplifting exceptions. I liked the musical score, even the cacophonous industrial-techno music being played in the sprawling, abandoned complex to which the main characters retreat in the second half of the film (perhaps a reference to Andy Warhol's 'Factory' of the '60s?). Much of the photography of the countryside was beautiful, an obvious attempt at contrast with the grimy city settings. And, even well into middle-age, Cathering Deneuve shows that she still has 'it'. Her performance was also the only one among the major characters that didn't sink into bathos.
There was an earlier time when I would regard such films as "Pola X" more charitably. Experimentation is admirable, even when the experiment doesn't work. But Carax tries nothing new here; the film is a pastiche of elements borrowed from countless earlier films, and after several decades of movie-viewing and literally thousands of films later, I simply no longer have the patience for this kind of unoriginal, poorly crafted tripe. At this early moment in the 21st century, one is left asking: With the exception of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, are there *any* directors in France who know how to make a watchable movie anymore? Rating: 3/10.
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