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Time Out says
‘Weird! Weird! It’s so weird!’ That’s not a quote from a critic leaving a screening of French eccentric Leos Carax’s first feature film in 13 years, though it may as well have been. Rather, they’re the elated words of an onscreen photographer after encountering perhaps the most alarming of the many guises adopted by shape-shifting protagonist Oscar (an astonishing Denis Lavant): this one is a Rumpelstiltskin-type grotesque who proceeds to bite off two of the man’s fingers before dragging compliant supermodel Kay-M (good sport Eva Mendes) underground to dine on her hair in the nude.
This is one of many such vignettes in Carax’s hypnotically inscrutable narrative, a cinematic revolving door constantly entered and exited by Oscar, who may or may not be the subject of an invisibly steered reality show. Or make that a sur-reality show, as Oscar inserts himself into a series of role-playing scenarios of escalating outlandishness, his instructions fed to him by a stoic limousine driver (Edith Scob). A day’s work finds him enacting CGI frottage with a fellow actress in a motion-capture bodysuit, begging on the street dressed as a bent-backed crone, speaking the dying words of a white-haired invalid and pursuing an ex-lover (Kylie Minogue, surprisingly affecting) around the ruins of a derelict Paris department store.
Weird, yes. But even at its most wilfully absurd (let’s just say chimpanzees are involved), there’s something fragile, tender and even truthful about Carax’s hall-of-mirrors irrationality, the sense of an artist so weary of decayed human realities that he has no choice but to twist them into the more beautiful shapes afforded by cinema. By the time the film ends with Scob subtly referencing the character she played 52 years ago in ‘Eyes Without a Face’, you might feel an involuntary shiver down the spine – it’s hard to say what forces are propelling this ecstatic, idiotic, fizzy, frightening provocation, but we’re moved by them too.
Author: Guy Lodge