Pierre is a young man born into the privileged class. His book, which he publisned anonymously, is a literary sensation and he is about to marry his cousin, Lucie (such it is with the French upper classes). Suddenly a dark haired vagrant girl tells him a secret story one night in the woods. She claims to be Isabelle, his sister, who was abandoned by his father. Pierre (a very handsome Guillaume Depardieu) breaks off his engagement with Lucie and leaves his doting mother (the always beautiful and exotic Catherine Deneuve) and heads for Paris with Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva) determined to explore the dark side of human nature. He begins writing a new novel and sends chapters under a nom de plume to his publisher and his relationship with Isabelle grows more intense. In the winter Lucie comes to live with them. As tensions begin to mount between the three, it appears that Pierre has not discovered truth at all, but despair.
Everything sounds like a wonderful film plot but the director, Leos Carax, evidently did not explain to his actors exactly what the true nature of this film was to be. He wanted to make an oblique and bizarre film but is lacking here is grace and style. What we get is a big complicated mess that should draw the viewer in but does the opposite. The film is not only erratic but it is choppy as well. Characters that have nothing to do with anything pop in and out, performances are milked for non-existent emotion and the lighting is so poor that sometimes I wondered if there was anything on the screen at all.
However, not all is bad. The musical score is beautiful and the photography of the French countryside is visually stunning. Catherine Deneuve rises above everything and she is still the wonderful actress that she has always been and her beauty is still radiant. I give the director for experimenting and I am sorry that his exercise does not work.