Cinema Libre // 1992 // 119 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // September 4th, 2009
"A life without love is a wasted life. You have no idea how much it hurts."
If Jean-Jacques Beineix's IP5 (full title in France: IP5: L'Ile aux Pachydermes) is remembered today, it's probably because star Yves Montand (Let's Make Love) died shortly after filming was completed. About an hour later, Beineix says in an interview with this DVD release. Journalists at the time said Beineix "pushed him too far," but he disagrees. "He never, ever had such a role in his life, and he took it until the very last drop, without cheating, and he died." Cinema Libre is giving viewers a chance to revisit IP5 and see Montand's last performance for themselves.
IP5, also known as Tony (Olivier Martinez, Blood & Chocolate), is a graffiti artist. The only way he knows to a woman's heart is to spray paint on the wall outside her apartment, but that doesn't impress nurse Gloria (Géraldine Pailhas, Didine). When rough characters take IP5's graffiti photo book and force him to cart a van full of dwarf statues to Grenoble, he takes young friend Jojo (Sekkou Sall) along for a road trip, and ends up deciding to track down Gloria in Toulouse instead. Naturally, they steal a car and find a passenger in the back seat: Leon Marcel (Yves Montand), an elderly man who is searching for a "water nymph" from his distant past.
At some point during IP5, you might wonder if there's really going to be a water nymph at the end of Leon's quest. Yves Montand gets a rather mystical introduction: popping up seemingly out of nowhere a couple of times, hugging trees, healing Tony's sprained back, apparently bringing a dead rabbit to life, and seemingly walking on water. Some unusual things do take place, but they come from the very human characters rather than anything supernatural.
Jean-Jacques Beineix sums up his movie well in his description of Tony and Jojo: "They are mean, they are tough, they are ready to head-bump the old guy, but slowly they discover they look for the same thing: love." A scene in a roadside restaurant shows all of their flaws in a few minutes: while Tony's making the umpteenth call to Gloria, Jojo hears some music he likes being played at a neighboring table, steals the tape when they're not looking, and intimidates a customer who saw him and calls him on it. When the customer goes to the bathroom, Tony, who's realized that the guy has a BMW, follows him in, beats him up, and steals his keys. At first, they're more likely to rob Leon than to help him, even after he pulls Tony from a wrecked car just before it went up in flames. However, as the movie goes on, things start to change. Tony hurries after Leon when he wanders off into the woods after collapsing, and Jojo eventually opens up about his father's drinking and gambling problems. Tony and Jojo even try hugging trees at one point. The performances of the three leads sneak up on you. The ending gives viewers reason for optimism, without wrapping everything up in a nice little bow. I suspect most viewers will be hopeful.
Beineix managed to create an often mystical-looking film on a modest budget, and the transfer doesn't have too much wear. The sound is good, with ambient noises and dialogue coming in strong under a musical score.
As for extras, there's an interview with Beineix, roughly 10 minutes long, that focuses on IP5. Since the discussion is focuses -- as is Beineix -- it covers the ground well in a short time. A photo gallery includes some behind-the-scenes shots along with stills from the film and publicity photos.
While the performances are excellent, the themes of lost love and redemption are familiar ones, and could feel that way to many viewers. The mystical touches, likely meant to show the amazing power of human love, could distract from that theme for some viewers.
It's also time to point out that Cinema Libre's DVD setup doesn't let you skip over the trailers at the beginning, which is starting to get on my nerves now that I've seen three Jean-Jacques Beineix entries, each with roughly the same trailers.
Fans of Yves Montand will want to see his last performance. He was at full strength, even at the end. If not, his rapport with the two young actors could still win you over.
Not guilty, even if we never did find out whether those dwarf statues got to
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery