Daily Archives: October 6, 2000

Pola X

I haven’t read Herman Melville’s Pierre, or the Ambiguities, but it’s reportedly director Leos Carax’s favorite novel. What there is of a plot to this 1999 modern-dress adaptation, which Carax wrote with Lauren Sedofsky and Jean-Pol Fargeau, concerns a wealthy author (Guillaume Depardieu, son of Gerard) living in Normandy in semi-incestuous content with his mother (Catherine Deneuve). Upon encountering a soulful eastern European war refugee (Katerina Golubeva) who claims to be his half sister, he runs out on his wealthy fiancee (Delphine Chuillot) and retreats to a funky part of Paris to write another novel. There’s clearly some sort of self-portraiture going on here. A 19th-century romantic inhabiting a universe as mythological as Jean Cocteau’s, Carax (Boy Meets Girl, Bad Blood, The Lovers on the Bridge) has a wonderful cinematic eye and a personal feeling for editing rhythms, and his sense of overripeness and excess virtually defines him. He’s as self-indulgent as they come, and we’d all be much the poorer if he weren’t. Characteristic of his private sense of poetics is this film’s final dedication, near the end of the closing credits, “to my three sisters”–it appears on-screen for less than a second. Pola, incidentally, is the acronym of the French title of Melville’s novel; X alludes to the fact that Carax used the tenth draft of the script.… Read more »

Beautiful Losers

What defines a successful film festival? Judging by the noises the media make about this topic, a successful festival is one that launches some Hollywood producer’s latest studio release–and allows him to expand his swimming pool. Anything that might get in the way of such a project–the art of film, say, or the curiosity of a festival audience about what’s happening elsewhere in the world–is to be discouraged in the pages of the trade papers, which generally set the tone for the mainstream.

By this standard, out of the seven festivals I’ve attended so far this year–in Rotterdam, Austin, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Pesaro, Montreal, and Toronto–only the last was a solid success, and the 36th Chicago International Film Festival, which begins screening its hundred or so programs this weekend, will be another flop. No swimming pools will be expanded as a result of any of its screenings–not even its few prerelease showings of Hollywood movies, most of which will open commercially a week or so later.

I’m grateful. I won’t be bugged by local publicists or any of their west- and east-coast associates who in late August start deluging me with calls, E-mails, and faxes about interviewing actors and directors in Toronto in September–publicists who know that I don’t do infotainment junkets but are apparently so browbeaten by their bosses they feel they have to ask me anyway, sometimes repeatedly.… Read more »