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So, surreal French cinema anyone? Kylie Minogue in it, and Eva Mendes? Thought so. This type of arthouse cinema is never an easy sell so you need something appealing to entice and artist like Kylie Minogue get to appear more right on and intelligent if they agree to show up in them. Normally I run a mile from this stuff but it gets great ratings from a broadbase of critics and so not one of those pretentious ones certain critics like. It’s worth a look if you like your foreign film. Intelligent creative foreign film is always superior to Hollywood movies.
Director Leos Carax tends to make a film every ten years and when he does its intriguing, odd, antagonistic and exhilarating stuff. Who knew about the grave goblins of Paris? I like those movies and this is one of them.
An older man, unappealing to the eye, is driven around Paris by an aging female chauffeur in a white stretch limo. Céline (Édith Scob) delivers the apparent performance artist (Denis Lavant) to various ‘appointments’, laid out in decorative folders. The limo windows are blacked out and the vehicle full of prosthetics, various props, items of clothing and a full make up and mirror kit so the man can transform into various obscure and strange characters. We are unsure of his, or indeed her, motives but both have compunction to complete their tasks, however gruesome or surreal, and some kind of performance or penance going on.
The first stop of the day in Paris is to play an old woman, bent over at the back, begging on a bustling bridge over the River Seine. The performance appears to have has no meaning. The second appointment our actor is performing virtual sex in a virtual reality green screen theatre in a likewise illuminated suit. An hour later he is the grave goblin, cavorting around biting the fingers of a man at a photo shoot, sexy fashion model Kay M (Eva Mendes) dragged into the catacombs by this insane incarnation. And as day turns tonight his appointments become increasingly strange and sinister.
The themes of tribute to the very essence of cinema and the journey through it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the critics loved it. This is the broadsheets kind of movie, one long delicious metaphor. Like I said I didn’t think I would enjoy it but did.
It has a certain fascination on what exactly is going on and what is this guy doing, and for who? Is this supernatural or religion or a bit of both. Is he the devil or merely a servant? Is he performing for sadistic and wealthy people hidden in the shadows? This guy does everything you can imagine, from slicing the throat of a man who he takes his identity from with those prosthetics to being that bent old woman. It’s weird but also intriguing.
Nothing is really resolved early on and it’s left up to you to decide who this guy is. The surreal ending doesn’t help. There are more than one of these limos. But I love films that don’t give you clues and there are very few here. Its time to put your thinking cap on. Cinema doesn’t serve up enough of those treats and the point of this movie me thinks.
It looks great as we move furtively through postcard Paris and its underbelly. The acting is powerful and the direction bold. It’s also rather funny at times. It has a lot of thugs going for it. But there is no narrative here and you don’t know what’s real and what a performance is. He appears to have an outside life with a daughter but that may be another act on his canvas to entertain others. Its very odd and delicious and great for foreign film fans.