Ambitious and original, this French film keeps you guessing as to what’s going on throughout. It opens with a sequence focussing on the cinema audience in a fashion similar to ‘The Artist’ but quickly gets onto the main body of the story. Oscar (Denis Lavant) is driven around Paris in a limousine which resembles an actor’s dressing room and embarks on various tasks. For a while I thought that Oscar was being hired to pose as people in order to invoke an emotion in various other people, but then I realised that wasn’t the case when someone in the bed with him was also an actor. I guess the best explanation is that he is a future actor, playing out realistic immersive scenes at a time when the mechanics of the filming is invisible.
I do wonder why they don’t just explain this at the beginning though, rather than leaving you wondering for the whole film. It’s nice to be left to make your own mind about some things in a film, but not the entire film.
However I can see why this plays well with critics who see hundreds of formulaic, dross, terrible films every year. It has some delightfully crazy ideas and scenarios and some great if a little steel-faced acting. I’m not so sure it’s as unconventional as everyone claims though. As I see it there are around 9 or 10 set-pieces stitched together with the limousine device. That’s always a dangerous and risky route for a film to take. Some of them are very interesting (the accordions in the church and the killer/mistaken identity strand are high points for me) and the transformations in the limousine were great, but many more of the scenes fell flat. Kylie Minogue’s strand was one example, taking place in somewhere I didn’t recognise she suddenly bursts into song. Hmmm. I think this could have done with being a bit madder or a bit funnier or a bit more of a journey, as it is it’s a little stuck between all three.
Part of the problem might have been that I didn’t get any of the references at all. Partly my fault for being so uneducated on French cinema, but surely partly the filmmaker’s responsibility to make sure everyone watching feels included. I felt like I was uninvited to the party I was peering through the window at.
2 on 5
Director: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Lavant, Édith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue
UK Release: 28th September 2012