Pola X

Radically revamping his entire artistic direction — by putting every technique in his arsenal into a barrel, rolling it down a hill, exploding it into a thousand bits and starting anew with a pulse-pounding sense of dark, urgent purpose — Leos Carax closed out the Nineties (and the first leg of his stormy career) with Pola X, his chaotic, crimson ode to whacked melodrama. Flaunting an incredibly haunting score by Scott Walker, the film finds Guillaume Depardieu (Gerard’s son) as a bored, ultra-rich hit novelist, Catherine Deneuve as his vaguely incestuous hot mom, and Yekaterina Golubyova (star of Bruno Dumont’s Twentynine Palms) as the feral woman who wanders out of the woods and claims to be Depardieu’s half-sister. As Herman Melville’s original source material (the novel “Pierre, Or The Ambiguities”) shocked the 19th-century bourgeoisie, Carax’s unprecedented adaptation deeply unnerved the pre-Millenium French moviegoing public, earning such scathing reviews upon its original release that Carax’s career took over a decade to recover. Seen today, Pola X marks a major paradigm shift in French arthouse cinema, pointing away from Lovers On The Bridge-style tragic romanticism, and instead towards a more savage, visceral, shocking and disturbing extremity later practiced by filmmakers like Bruno Dumont and Gaspar Noé.
Dir. Leos Carax, 1999, 35mm, 134 min.

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