Director: Leos Carax
Starring: Guillaume Depardieu, Yekaterina Golubeva, Catherine Deneuve, Delphine Chuillot, Laurent Lucas
Duration: 134 min.
A successful young novelist is confronted by a woman who claims to be his lost sister and the two begin a romantic relationship as he descends into madness
Pola X is a film from French director Leos Carax, based loosely on the Herman Melville novel Pierre: or, The Ambiguities. The film's name comes from an acronym of the French title of the novel Pierre ou les ambiguïtés with the 'X' referring to the tenth draft of the screenplay. It premiered in competition at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.
Set in contemporary France, it tells the story of Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) a well off young author who lives on a large estate with his mother Marie (Catherine Deneuve). They have a strange, bordering on incestuous relationship, and call each other 'brother' and 'sister'. Pierre is engaged to Lucie (Delphine Chuillot) his cousin who lives nearby, and the two of them are also close with a third cousin Thibault (Laurent Lucas) who recently returned from working in America.
Just when you think Pierre's life couldn't get any stranger, in walks the homeless vagrant Isabelle (Katerina Golubeva), a feral and ethereal looking beauty who comes into the picture with a startling revelation. As they walk through the woods at night, and in a long desperate sounding monologue in broken French, she reveals to Pierre that he is not an only child, that she is his sister, and goes on to tell a miserable and heartbreaking story.
Pierre is overcome by a fit of insanity that causes him to walk away from his privileged life. Swearing to look after Isabelle, he leaves everything behind and they begin to live together. First in a rundown hotel and then in a bizarre communal compound within an abandoned factory. It's a strange dystopian place, inhabited by a cult who appear to be preparing for the apocalypse, run by a young enigmatic figure who stands as the conductor of a post industrial noise rock orchestra. In fact the music composed by Scott Walker is a highlight of this film. There is an incredible sequence shown when Pierre and Isabelle first arrive, in the middle of this abandoned building is a large pit, where a large group of musicians all dressed in black gather to practice their unearthly sounding symphonies on various improvised drums and electric guitars.
It is very well acted and helmed by director who has a wonderful talent for blending poetic dreamlike imagery with the reality, but it is a challenging film that is a bit overlong and eventually makes you want to reach into the screen to wring Pierre's neck. The often talked about unsimulated sex scene is graphic but isn't exploitative, instead a very intimate moment filmed in almost complete darkness that heralds a powerful turning point for the characters.
— Bonjour Tristesse