POLA X

          Leos Carax is perhaps one of the most misunderstood filmmakers
  in the world. His French countrymen seem to take perverse delight in
  slamming his movies. At the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, his brilliant if
  flawed
LES AMANTS DU PONT-NEUF/LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE opened
  to a scathing reaction. So devastated was Carax that he retreated from the
  movie world until 1999 when
POLA X, his modern-day adaptation of Herman
  Melville's barely remembered novel
Pierre, or the Ambiguities, also
  premiered at Cannes -- to a similarly inhospitable reception. (A longer
  version also played on French television.)

          As with all of Carax's work,
POLA X is at once fascinating and
  frustrating. Carax (né Alexandre Dupont) did not attend film school and
  is therefore not "trained" per se. But, like Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette,
  Bernard Tavernier and André Téchiné, he worked as a critic for the
  prestigious journal
Cahiers du Cinema while concurrently building his
  skills as a filmmaker. Carax himself cites Godard as his main influence
  and the highly personal, off-beat projects he has helmed have left critics
  divided. By closely examining his art, however, it becomes clear that there
  is a unifying theme - the folly of love. Although
POLA X on some levels
  is a departure into newer uncharted territory (i.e., an adaptation of another
  writer's work), Carax has retained his preoccupation with the nature
  of romance. His earlier work could be read as baldly autobiographical
  -- each of his first three features starred Dennis Lavant as a character
  called Alex and several of the leading ladies (including Mireille Perrier
  and Juliette Binoche) were his off-screen companions at the time of
  filming.

          As a director, Carax can fashion transcendent moments of odd
  beauty (e.g., a band of mercenaries chilling out by forming a rock
  orchestra in an abandoned factory) and excess (i.e., continuous shots
  of the hero riding a motorcycle zooming on a highway).
POLA X centers
  on Pierre (played by Guillaume Depardieu with an appropriately ravaged
  attractiveness), a spoiled heir and novelist who resides on a magnificent
  estate in rural France. Pierre seems to have it all: good looks, wealth
  and two important woman in his life, Lucie, his beautiful, blonde lover
  (the angelic Delphine Chuillot) and Marie (the always impressive Catherine
  Deneuve), his regal mother whose attentions border on the incestuous.
  Pierre's world is transformed by a mysterious third woman (the darkly
  attractive Katerina Golubeva). At first, she appears ghost-like in his
  dreams, but soon she and Pierre come face to face and she reveals
  her identity and connection to him. Intrigued and besotted, he willingly
  abandons his life of privilege for one of squalor in order to pursue her
  with ultimately tragic results.

         For all his flights of excess and lack of traditional storytelling skills,
  Carax possesses the spirit of a maverick movie maker and
POLA X
  contains several stunning set pieces. Much has been made of a graphic
  love scene that serves as the catalyst for the drama, but that seems
  more the prudish Puritanical American attitudes; other European films
  like
ROMANCE and the work of François Ozon are equally if not more
  explicit. Undoubtedly having to compact the material from its three-part
  television version was a daunting task and with a running time in excess
  of two and half-hours,
POLA X may try the patience of some audience
  members, but those willing to invest the time will be rewarded.


                          Rating:                 B+
                          MPAA Rating:        NONE
                          Running time:       134 mins.
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.