Jean-Jacques Beineix experienced what Tennessee Williams called "the catastrophe of success" when his 1980 debut DIVA scored a worldwide artistic and popular hit but remained a tough act for the chimerical filmmaker to follow. IP5 was barely released outside of France (it only crossed
over to Britain in late 1994) despite the twin distinctions of being Beineix's fifth feature--noted by the immodest digit in the title--and the final bow of international screen legend Yves Montand. The actor, singer, author and political commentator (and, at one point, a rumored candidate for the
French government) died as the production wrapped.
IP5 opens with a dynamic but typically off-kilter musical number, a French-language rap (penned by Beineix) performed by Afro-Parisian street urchin Jockey (Sekkou Sall) in tribute to his idol, master graffiti artist Tony (Olivier Martinez) as the latter creates a glorious spray-paint mural.
Tony's talent is less appreciated by some underworld associates, who strongarm the guy into driving a load of garden gnome figurines to Grenoble. Jockey goes along for the ride. There's probably more in those gnomes than just plaster and paint, but no matter; the footloose protagonists simply
abandon their cargo midway so Tony can follow attractive nurse Gloria (Geraldine Pailhas).
Tony and Jockey steal a car, then discover an old man named Leon (Yves Montand) in the backseat. Leon can walk on water, heal wounds, hear plants, predict the future, and casually takes control of expedition, mentoring his captors while steering them on his personal quest to reunite with a
long-lost, WWII-era sweetheart. Infused with Leon's spirit of romance, Tony learns that Leon's girlfriend killed herself right after their breakup, and persuades her surviving sister to masquerade as the woman for Leon's sake. Leon sees through the deception at once, and does not go through with
his plan--he has a gun, and was going to commit murder/suicide with his amour.
Back on the road, Tony's resentment flares at the old man, whom he now regards as a fraud and hypocrite. Dying of a heart ailment, Leon leaves his hospital bed and motors off with Jockey one last time to see the mountains, while Tony sulks in town, where, conveniently, Gloria is now stationed.
After lengthy and rather dull deliberations on the course of true love, Tony and Gloria get together for the fadeout, determined not to repeat Leon's mistake.
Seldom is a role so obviously contrived as a career-capping sendoff than Montand's part here. Leon ranges all over the map (the same might be said of the film), from his tree-hugging messianic New Age mysticism to a bitter, homicidal obsession spanning 40 years. The performer is charming, the
tribute heartfelt, but even Montand can't quite make the pieces fit. Martinez is even less advantaged as a punk hero who grows plainly dislikable as time goes by, though many a star would come off second best next to charismatic Sekkou Sall, age 11 when this was made.
The road-movie plot just runs out of fuel after a while, but there are moments of virtuoso cinema in IP5 (such as a lyrically crosscut sequence in which an unattended Jockey nearly shoots himself with Leon's loaded Luger) that confirm Beineix as a master stylist. Had a mere unknown directed IP5,
would it have received a wider, warmer reception? But self-indulgence on this scale is seldom a privilege accorded to newcomers, and Beineix's weighty pretensions pull the picture apart. During its scattershot US tour the feature won the top prize at the Seattle Film Festival. (Adult situations,violence, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Review: Jean-Jacques Beineix experienced what Tennessee Williams called "the catastrophe of success" when his 1980 debut DIVA scored a worldwide artistic and popular hit but remained a tough act for the chimerical filmmaker to follow. IP5 was barely released outsi… (more)