Pola X (1999)

As with most anything involving close historical referencing or the creative arts, Wikipedia characteristically misses the boat with its comments regarding the significance and interpretation of Leo Carax’s Pola X. Not even able to discern a “castle” from a French villa, the commentary attempts to size this beautiful example of cinematography with the minimalist (and crass) label, “examples French Extremism”. As I suppose most crass oversimplifications so applied, could be called “Reader’s Digest” version, one might just as easily find some idea of what this amazing film is about if you watch an unsubtitled production and spoke no French. For you would at least know better.

No one is going to bring the ageless beauty and wonderful acting grace of Catherine Deneuve to a role merely involving “French Extremism” or some such presumed exploitation. Nor to involve in her performance an almost T.E. Lawrence styled end on a motorcycle ride to oblivion. Unlike, “French Extremism” there is an accounting and a look behind the curtain of where all our desires lie that make us want to go on living.

On par with the best novels of Doestoyevski, the storyline emerges from an author’s refusal to accept his life as complete enough to qualify producing a masterpiece. Even the direction, camera work and extraordinary settings (one involving, it is true, French Extremist music composition) are orchestrated beautifully to enhance this struggle.

Only thus, with this understanding, can the viewer grasp the difference between Pierre (the gifted Guillaume Depardieu,) being a writer that puts this struggle before all else, and being a madman.

Is this an ultimate devotion to find his readers the disaster of what truth must come to be, or is it a flame-engulfing obsession driving everyone before it into a companionship with disaster as all conventions are dissolved, even that of incest taboo?

In the tradition of the great French writers of this last century, Camus and Sartre, it is not the answer that is so important, it is the question.

In the words of Isabelle (the lovely and international actress, Yekaterina Golubeva,) to the question, “where are we”?, “outside it all” she answers.

In vastly more ways than one.

An adult film, yes, too, in more ways than one.

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