If variety really is the spice of life then the culinary equivalent of Monsieur Oscar’s (Denis Lavant) daily existence would surely be an eye wateringly hot vindaloo. Oscar spends his working day being taxied around Paris from one ‘appointment’ to another in a white stretch Limo driven by his immaculately turned out chauffeuse Celine (Edith Scob). At each stop he takes on the role of a different character detailed in a series of dossiers, applying theatrical makeup with expert skill, to change his appearance en route.
Lavant leads a procession of accordionists through a riotous rendition of R L Burnside’s Let my Baby Ride. In a cathedral.
It’s pretty clear we aren’t in Kansas anymore when he starts his day as a stoop-backed beggar woman panhandling on the Parisian boulevards, but things just get stranger and stranger. One moment he’s an acrobatic stop motion animation model mimicking alien lovemaking with an inconceivably flexible female counterpart, the next a track-suited hood stabbing his doppelganger in the neck with a flickknife.
Merde, the ambling yellow-toothed, milky-eyed sewer-dweller featured in Carax’s entry to the surreal triptych of shorts Tokyo!, also makes an appearance. Then there’s the randomly inserted musical interval in which Lavant leads a procession of accordionists through a riotous rendition of R L Burnside’s Let my Baby Ride. In a cathedral. And as ever, Lavant is captivating. At times his transformations are nothing short of staggering and though now in his fifties he has lost none of his impressive physicality.
… the film is most easily read as both a love letter and an elegy to cinema…
Despite Carax’s arch claims to the contrary, the film is most easily read as both a love letter and an elegy to cinema. For one it’s littered with cinematic references, to both his own work and that of others. Can it really be a coincidence that the gamine played by Kylie Minogue is named Jean when she looks so spookily like Jean Seberg? And why is Edith Scob made to wear a mask almost identical to the one she wore in Georges Frangu’s Eyes Without a Face?
In essence though, Carax seems to be commenting on the paradoxical ability of cinema to express the truth and reality of life so completely while at the same time being almost entirely artifice. And while any serious attempt to decode the imagery is likely to require repeat viewings, it’s difficult not to get taken along by the film’s energy, originality, and wild-eyed spirit of adventure and invention.
The HD stream is available to watch on a pay-per-view basis for £10. The film will be available to watch immediately. The streaming version can be accessed five times within 30 days of purchase. Distrify, an online film distributor, are managing the payment of this product.