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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The downward spiral presented as a genuinely bold and intense cinematic achievement.
As others have no doubt previously noted, 'Pola X' (1999) was the much anticipated return feature from former "cinema du look" stalwart and enfant-terrible Leos Carax; a bold and imaginative filmmaker who made a name for himself in the early to mid nineteen-eighties with the quirky and melancholic romantic fantasy films Boy Meets Girl (1984) and Mauvais Sang (1986),...
Published on 22 Dec 2007 by Jonathan James Romley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly conventional and joyless for Carax
Pola X is at once the most accessible and least interesting film from infant terrible Leos Carax. His modernised adaptation of Herman Melville's Pierre, or The Ambiguities is certainly less disjointed than his other features, but it lacks the inspired standout moments that make them worth watching even if they don't entirely work. If you're expecting something like the...
Published on 5 Dec 2007 by Trevor Willsmer


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The downward spiral presented as a genuinely bold and intense cinematic achievement., 22 Dec 2007
This review is from: Pola X [VHS] (VHS Tape)
As others have no doubt previously noted, 'Pola X' (1999) was the much anticipated return feature from former "cinema du look" stalwart and enfant-terrible Leos Carax; a bold and imaginative filmmaker who made a name for himself in the early to mid nineteen-eighties with the quirky and melancholic romantic fantasy films Boy Meets Girl (1984) and Mauvais Sang (1986), before taking his central themes of unrequited love and alienated Parisian youth to the next conceivable level with the film Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf. That particular film was supposed to be the one that would finally introduce Carax to a wider cinematic audience; finding the filmmaker refining his usual themes and structural preoccupations with a larger budget and much in the way of creative freedom. Sadly, things didn't go to plan; the eventual film - a wildly uneven though often quite captivating blend of romantic folly and violent social realism - went massively over-budget and over-schedule before finally limping out with a limited release almost half a decade after Carax had initially started the project.

As with films like Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, subsequent years have seen a re-appraisal of said film, with many people being drawn to Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf; seeing it as some sort of flawed epic or a minor masterpiece showcasing the triumph of imagination and free-thinking independence during the last gasp of intelligent, daring and entirely unique European film making. Time, however, has been less kind to the film in question; with the general consensus of most viewers and professional critics being that Pola X is muddled, confusing, plodding and pretentious. One wonders if these people are familiar with Carax's previous work at all.

Pola X is loose adaptation/up-date of Herman Melville's controversial novella, Pierre; or the Ambiguities, the title here an acronym for the novel's original French title, while the "X" denotes the number of drafts the script went through. Carax moves the story from old New York to contemporary Paris, spending the first half of the film projecting a backdrop of sun-kissed gardens and stately manner houses as we are introduced to the spoilt and carefree existence of our young hero. When we meet him, Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) is living the good life, sharing the family house with his glamorous mother (with whom he shares a rather close and peculiar relationship) and about to be married to his beautiful fiancé who lives in a similarly large manner house just across the river. Pierre has also written an incredibly successful novel, albeit, under the pseudonym Aladdin, giving him much in the way of acclaim and public interest and the offer from his publisher to create a follow-up. Things become complicated, however, when Pierre follows a dark and mysterious young woman who has been stalking him, and, in one of the film's most talked-about and visually cryptic sequences, discovers that the woman is in fact his half-sister.

What follows requires a great leap of faith on the part of the audience, as Pierre, hooked completely by the confession of this wounded lost soul, takes it upon himself to atone for the sins of his father, who abandoned the girl when she was still a child, and carries her under his wing in an attempt to make right what was wrong through the writing of his second novel. The film, like Carax's earlier work, specifically Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf, skirts freely between the idealised and romantic poetry of his grand visual gestures and the squalor and violence presented by the real world. As a result, it's an incredibly bleak work; one that visualises the slow destruction of the central character's world with an opening montage of world war II stock footage over a clanging industrial soundtrack from Scott Walker that re-appears throughout the film as the grip that Pierre might have had to the world he once knew becomes more and more strained.

Some problems that people have with the film include the fragmented narrative, which has characters drifting in and out like leaves being scattered by the wind, and the uncertainty and blind faith presented in the central concept, in which Pierre gives up his idyllic, affluent lifestyle to live a destitute existence on the fringes of society; all for a woman that he's never really known and only has her word on the matter that they are in fact brother and sister. Another point that many take issue with is the prolonged and sexually-explicit love scene that takes place during the second half of the film. Although shot in almost total darkness - recalling the aforementioned scene in which Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva) makes her confession to Pierre as the couple wander lost and confused through a darkened woodland in a largely unbroken tracking shot that climaxes with the sun slowly rising between the trees - the scene is, regardless, no less intimate; featuring fine performances from both lead actors and the provocative inclusion of a moment of un-simulated sex. This, at the time, saw the film being lumped in alongside the likes of Catherine Breillat's Romance, Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy and Lars von Trier's The Idiots as part of the New European Extreme.

The film is neither as self-consciously provocative as Breillat's film, nor as daring and groundbreaking as the von Trier, with the explicitness of the sex scene intended to drive home the potential illicitness of this union between brother and sister and how the love that grows between the two of them will only end up destroying everything that follows. For me, the film gripped from beginning to end, mostly because of the powerful central performance from Depardieu, who brings a De Niro-like level of intensity to Pierre; this loveless character who only wants to do right and to experience something deeper and more real than the sheltered and carefree existence that he had previously known, undone and corrupted by a the secrets and sins of a world he never knew existed. Carax's direction is more understated than his first two films, capturing the raw intimacy central to the relationship between Pierre and Isabelle and the spiralling sense of squalor and personal despair that Pierre descends into; finally manifesting itself in an impressive CGI dream-sequence in which Pierre and another central character are washed away on a tidal wave of blood. A fitting prelude to that downbeat final, and one of the many flashes of the old Carax visual flair that explodes onto the screen, often as randomly as that great sequence in Mauvais Sang where Denis Lavant dances down the street to Modern Love, to make memorable an already daring and intense cinematic achievement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly conventional and joyless for Carax, 5 Dec 2007
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pola X [DVD] [1999] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Pola X is at once the most accessible and least interesting film from infant terrible Leos Carax. His modernised adaptation of Herman Melville's Pierre, or The Ambiguities is certainly less disjointed than his other features, but it lacks the inspired standout moments that make them worth watching even if they don't entirely work. If you're expecting something like the joyful sequence set to David Bowie's When I Live My Dream in Boy Meets Girl you'll be bitterly disappointed: this is a joyless film that wanders into unintentional self-parody without ever providing much to smile about. This is self-conscious Miserablism in the classic tradition.

It starts out as glacially classical French film-making before moving more into better photographed nouvelle vague with all the usual clichés - self-indulgent disaffected hero (Guillaume Depardieu) flirting with ill-defined violent politics in the pursuit of an equally ill-defined truth while constantly lying to himself; utterly hopeless leading lady (Katerina Golubeva) that either producer or director wants to have sex with delivering a pitifully bad and painfully stilted performance; 'daring' unsimulated sex scene (albeit featuring body doubles); clumsy symbolism and a bleak-chic ending you don't need to have read the book to see coming. There's an interesting note of criticism in the anti-hero's search for truth in poverty and his need to increasingly create a fiction to support his self-image (he persuades his sister to pose as his wife and his fiancé to pose as his sister and while desperate for money constantly refuses to touch the money he and his family have) and it earns Brownie points for its attitude to racism in France, but it's not quite enough.
Jacques Rivette declared it the best French film of the last ten years, but I guess that just implies he doesn't see many French films these days.
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46 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An incoherent and unpenetrable urban epic, 14 Jan 2001
By 
k.r.haynes@durham.ac.uk (Durham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pola X [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Leos Carax has attempted in Pola X to give us an urban epic, the result is however an incoherent and unpenetrable mess. Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) is from a wealthy family, a young man riding high on the success of an anonymously published novel, by the end of the film he is physically and mentally crushed. It would be logical assumption that the body of the film charts this descent from success to despair. Instead we see a conglomoration of collapsing relationships that remain unexplained and frustratingly the viewer knows that these are essential to any understanding or interpretation of the film.
The catalyst for Pierre's descent is the appearance of a vagrant girl (Yekaterina Golubyeva) who reveals that she is in fact Pierre's half sister Isabelle, abandoned in eastern Europe by their Father who was diplomat. Throughout we are left wondering why Pierre accepts such an appalling story at face value without any proof or further investigation. Abandoning his Mother Marie and fiance Lucie he takes Isabelle to Paris. There appears to be no reason for his actions, no confrontation with Marie for the truth of Isabelle's existence and no explanation to Lucie as to why Pierre takes this decision.
Other relationships are of much greater interest. That between Marie and Pierre has strains of an incestual one, with resonances of Gertrude and Hamlet. Without any revelations of the past and so little contact between the two characters it feels as though Carax has lost an opportunity and this would undoubtedly have made a far more interesting story. More importantly there is the relationship between Pierre, Lucie and Thibault (Laurent Lucas). The three characters have been friends since childhood and with Thibault's departure to work in the United Statesit is implied that Pierre and Lucie's friendship grew to the point of impending marriage. With Thibault's return and in his first meeting with Pierre, a line by the former in regard to the furture of the relationship between the three is an indication of an important story line that remains unexpanded on, "things will never be the same again". In Paris, Thibault refuses to help Pierre or even acknowledge him as a friend and become the focus of Pierre's vengeance, seemingly against the world.
Redeamingly the use of colour to parrallel the descent of Pierre throughout the story is incorporated well. From the strong colours of the country and the light clothing of the characters through to the drab greys of Paris. Laurent Lucas' performance is strong but he is floundering with poor material with which to work. These two features are not sufficient to over come the films deficits. Writing and direction appear to be the principle faults thus making the work of the actors seem equally disastrous. Depardieu is an unengaging screen presence and Golubyeva's presence is constant only in its irritation, even Deneuve is unable to bring her talents to the film.
If this review seems confusing and difficult to understand, watch the film. You will come away from Pola X even more confused and with a sense of dissatisfaction.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 24 Aug 2007
By 
G. I. Iversen (North-Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pola X [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Pola X" is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. And that's saying a lot. The plot was confusing and the acting was not very good. Also, it was a problem that it was so dark a lot of the time, you can't really see what's going on.
I have to admit I bought this movie mainly to catch a glimpse of Till Lindemann and Christoph Schneider, but if that is why you are considering purchasing this; don't! You can't really see them at all, it's not worth it.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars make of your own vision of this modern film noir, 2 May 2009
This review is from: Pola X [DVD] [1999] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
It's great - i can't knock it for being below budget, it's a National treasure
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Pola X [DVD] [1999] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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