IP5 (with a note on BETTY BLUE L'INTEGRALE)
A film review by Jon Newman
Copyright 1992 Jon Newman
Both directed by Jean-Jacques Beneix
Watching Jean-Jacques Beneix's new film, IP5, is like holding a conversation with a man with no long-term memory. His individual sentences make sense, and are sometimes well-crafted and beautiful; but the the discussion does not hang together as a whole. Every scene of IP5 is a cinematographer's dream, a masterpiece of color, landscape and light; it is unfortunate that character development was given such short shrift. This film won several awards at the Seattle International Film Festival, but the SIFF is known for flaky award-giving. IP5 isn't worth a trip to the theatre, and wouldn't work on video, so I recommend skipping it entirely.
The plot of IP5, such as it is, centers on a young (about 18 years old?) graffiti artist and his younger (12 years old?) sidekick. The young man roams Paris painting improbably beautiful graffiti (or "hip-hop") and acting antisocial, while his sidekick mugs for the camera and generally acts like W. C. Fields' worst nightmare. On the side, the young man pursues an icy-cold nurse, who never gets enough screen time to make any sort of sense. A gang of skinheads steal the artist's photo album of his work, and force him to drive a van to another city to retrieve it. He and his sidekick set off, to retrieve the art and to pursue the young nurse.
Underway, our heroes abandon the van to steal a flashier car and chase after the love interest, and that subplot is never seen again. They wreck the car and are rescued by Yves Montand as an aging hermit and eccentric. The hermit seems to have magical healing powers and insight, but is also an escapee from a mental institution. They have some adventures together in the primeval French forest and the surrounding towns. Montand contributes a fine performance, but is unable to turn IP5 around.
Other films by Jean-Jaques Beneix include BETTY BLUE, DIVA and ROSELYNNE AND THE LIONS. DIVA is a very watchable and stylish thriller, and ROSELYNNE AND THE LIONS, while no masterpiece, does at least boast a coherent narrative. IP5 must be especially disappointing to fellow fans of BETTY BLUE, which may be the sexiest movie ever made. Starring Beatrice Dalle as Betty, BETTY BLUE traces a writer's affair with a younger woman as she gradually sinks into insanity. Beatrice Dalle's stunning performance as Betty merges with solid storytelling and beautiful cinematography to produce a memorable film.
To end this disappointing review on a bright note, BETTY BLUE has recently been re-released in a director's cut, restored to three hours in length. BETTY BLUE L'INTEGRALE introduces little character or plot development beyond what was in the original release, instead lengthening some scenes and perhaps adding one or two sex scenes. The camerawork is earned here, however, and I recommend BETTY BLUE L'INTEGRALE without hesitation to anyone who watches subtitled movies.