Paul W R’s Last Journey (Le dernier voyage de l'énigmatique Paul W R)
Starring: Hugo Becker, Lya Oussadit-Lessert, Jean Reno, Paul Hamy, Philippe Katerine
Showing nationally as part of the French Film Festival
In French with English subtitles
Paul W R’s Last Journey is set in a climate change-ravaged, near future France. It opens with the sight of the Eiffel Tower toppled and Paris in ruins. However, it is explained very early on that the apocalypse has been caused by the looming presence of a mysterious Red Moon that is irradiating Earth while simultaneously suppling an all-powerful energy source.
The possibility of having the Red Moon being an allegory for fossil fuel exploitation is not pursued.
The film’s style is science fiction of the Mad Max genre mixed with unexplained, dreamily mystical elements. For example, it appears the Red Moon is both sentient and telepathic and may or may not be communicating with Paul W R, as may be his dead mother.
The narrative is a road movie woven with a story in flashback of sibling rivalry between two brothers and an emotionally distant father.
With such disparate elements, the film could easily fall apart. What saves it is the presence of a finely drawn and enigmatic evil nemesis pursuing the hero, a skilled directorial control of dramatic tension and fine artistic design.
As a political commentary of the climate crisis, this film does not even attempt to make the grade. However, as an example of sci-fi, dystopian futurism it is worth the time.