Yves Montand gave his final – some say fatal – performance in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s IP5, dying shortly after the shoot. A weird, almost spectral presence, his character seems headed for the grave, if he hasn’t just come from there. He first appears in the back seat of a car, giving us, and the pair of young drifters who stole the vehicle, a ghost-like shock.
Later, when a cagey comradeship has grown between the three outsiders, he introduces them to the pantheist pleasures of nature – tree-hugging and gibberish-shouting, mellowing out by bellowing out. Montand’s cowl-like anorak and smile of rueful suffering make him look like a monk. And sometimes he seems of a higher order still, standing, arms outspread, in the glow of a clearing, or walking on an invisible jetty into the sea. Although his face and flesh are harrowingly aged, he looks divine.
He’s certainly Beineix’s idea of a god. Ever since his brilliant debut, Diva, Beineix has worshipped at the altar of the outsider. His heroes have been stubborn loners, pursuing outlandish passions: vengeance for a dead sister (The Moon in the Gutter); literary fame and self- immolating love (Betty Blue); or just the daft desire to become a lion-tamer (Roselyne and the Lions). In IP5, Beineix has three such non-conformists. The pair Montand joins are graffiti artist Tony (Olivier Martinez) and his young sidekick, Jockey (12- year-old Sekkou Sall).
This unholy trinity is linked, on its picaresque journey from Paris to Toulouse, by a quest for love. Montand is searching for the woman who jilted him years earlier; Tony, egged on by his urchin mate, is after a nurse, Gloria (Geraldine Pailhas), who spurned his affections, and fled the city after he spray-canned her house in misplaced hommage. The character of Gloria is woefully underdeveloped. Beineix has always been stronger on the chase than its quarry, but here the desire is almost an abstraction, so thinly realised is its object. That may be what he wants – to contrast an old man’s love, remembered but rapturous, with the hard urgency of youth – but it makes the film seem dry and self-indulgent.
Your feelings about IP5 will depend on how far the characters charm you. For me they fell way short of the mercurial Zorg and Betty Blue. Montand has a fragile majesty, but his companions are callow and cruel. Beineix seems to want us to applaud their behaviour simply for being anti-social. At one point Jockey complains of Gloria: ‘She doesn’t realise he’s a hero, and he loves her like crazy.’ But to us Tony’s a horny vandal, who turns abusive when snubbed. Beineix always gives us startling images – though he seems to have lost some sparkle since his great cameraman, Philippe Rousselot, decamped to Hollywood – but the scripts are becoming airy. The brilliant iconoclasm of Diva has turned into adolescent doodling.
+Second audiotrack – the director’s commentary (french)
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