Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France/Switzerland/Germany/Japan, 1999. Arena Films, Canal+, Degeto Film, Euro Space, France 2 Cinema, La Sept-Arte, Pandora Filmproduktion, Pola Production, Theo Films, Télévision Suisse-Romande, Vega Film. Screenplay by Leos Carax, Jean-Pol Fargeau, Lauren Sedofsky, based on the novel Pierre Or The Ambiguities by Herman Melville. Cinematography by Eric Gautier. Produced by Bruno Pesery. Music by Scott Walker. Production Design by Laurent Allaire. Costume Design by Esther Walz. Film Editing by Nelly Quettier.
The genius of Leos Carax applies itself to a modernized, highly eccentric adaptation of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Pierre Or The Ambiguities (the title of the film is the initials of the French title of the book, followed by the Roman numeral of the script’s draft number we are viewing). Guillaume Depardieu plays an upstanding aristocrat who abandons lady love Delphine Chuillot and stylish older sister Catherine Deneuve to pursue the nomadic life when he meets Yekaterina Golubeva. Golubeva informs him, in an enchanted scene wandering through a midnight forest, that she is actually his half-sister, sired by their father and then abandoned by him. Depardieu is so moved that he takes off on a journey that sees him degrade materially and spiritually as they scratch out an existence for themselves, buoyed only by his attempts to maintain his previously successful career as a novelist. The film is an exasperating, bleeding heart of emotions and ragged expressions: sequences of exquisite passion, some of deep melancholy, and some that hold on a bit too long, plus a headline-grabbing scene of graphic sexuality that garnered far more discussion than was necessary. It’s not for all viewers, some will be wholly alienated by it, but there’s something about the grandeur of Carax’s bold and daring emotional nakedness that makes it compelling and necessary viewing. It’s also notable for being his last feature until 2012’s Holy Motors, its failure at the French box office a devastation that prevented his pursuit of another grand work for more than a decade.
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition