Pola X

dir. Leos Carax

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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An upper-class novelist (Guillaume Depardieu) falls into an incestuous affair with his long-lost sister in Leos Carax's controversial adaptation of Herman Melville's notorious novel Pierre: or, The Ambiguities.

Love has rarely seemed more doomed than in Carax's modern update of one of his favourite novels, Herman Melville's Pierre: or, The Ambiguities. Written in a state of "morbid excitement," the nineteenth-century novel ideally suited Carax's already extreme vision of fated amour. Upper-class novelist Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) lives in a Normandy villa with his clinging mama (Catherine Deneuve, Oedipal and elegant) and his charming fiancée (Delphine Chuillot). Shadowing his sunny existence is a dark, wraithlike woman (Katerina Golubeva), who turns out to be his half-sister from one of his father's infidelities. Shattered by the revelation and his growing desire for his ghostly sibling — consummated in a scene of convulsively graphic sex — Pierre accompanies her to Paris to live in penury so that his next novel might finally reflect "the truth." Eerily prophetic — the film features a motorcycle accident and a suicide which respectively portend the real-life ends of its two ill-destined stars, both tortured souls who died long before their time — Pola X is also Carax's most operatic, personal, and passionate film. "At once breathtaking and ridiculous[ — ]and it's the tension between these two extremes, as well as Carax's own intoxicating style, that makes it essential viewing" (Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly).