Sunday, August 31, 2014


Leos Carax's productivity as a filmmaker has been spotty at best over the last three decades. While people always make a big deal about every Terrence Malick resubmergence every few years or so, they neglect to realize that since the late 90's, Malick has actually released four films with two more unreleased films currently in post-production. That's pretty steady work if you ask me (plus if you actually read any legitimate/researched literature on the man you'd know he was pretty active behind the scenes during the 20 year period, '78-'98, that people always like to fantasize as him being in hiding or something). Terrence Malick is often mislabeled as the JD Salinger of movie directors. In the last two decades alone Leos Carax has only put out two feature films, with a thirteen year gap between them (Pola X & Holy Motors), and one short film (Tokyo). If anyone is like JD Salinger it's Leos Carax.
I know some of you reading this piece alongside the other write-ups of more popular films in this 1984 blog-a-thon are probably wondering who the fuck Leos Carax is. And that's fine. Not every important art-house filmmaker is known outside of their own little bubble. But if you've seen anything by Harmony Korine, Jonathan Glazer or Noah Baumbach - chances are you've seen his influence in some shape or form.
Remember that scene of Greta Gerwig dancing down the streets set to David Bowie's "Modern Love" in Frances Ha? That's an obvious homage to Carax's Bad Blood (1986)...

Jonathan Glazer went so far as to use Denis Lavant in his music video for Unkle's Rabbit In Your Headlights to recreate certain moments from Leos Carax's The Lovers On The Bridge (which also co-stars Lavant)
The Lovers On The Bridge / Rabbit In Your Headlights

even James Cameron borrowed a shot from his work...
The Lovers On The Bridge, Carax (1991) / Titanic, James Cameron (1997)

Before becoming a filmmaker, Carax was a critic for the legendary French publication; Cahier Du Cinema (a magazine where filmmakers like Goodard, Rhomer, Truffaut & Assayas have all written for before turning to directing). Some critics are unfairly judged by filmmakers (usually at convenient times when they don't give out a good review) as untalented trolls who couldn't make it as filmmakers themselves so they turned to criticism in an effort to still participate in the world of cinema in some form all while being extra critical of people (filmmakers) who actually have the talent & drive to make movies. You all know this is kinda true. It's unspoken, but true.
While I'm sure that's the case with a few critics, that's still a ridiculous generalization (I myself have zero ambition to ever make a movie). Some people, like myself, are just passionate about film analysis & dissecting movies. Carax was also like that but he loved film so much that he eventually felt the need to participate. Seeing former critics-turned-filmmakers like Paul Schrader, Olivier Assayas & Leos Carax find success in cinema has always kind of shat on that theory of critics being wannabe/failed directors.
And think about the pressure of becoming a filmmaker after years of being a critic. You've spent all this time criticisizing, sometimes insulting, films safely behind a typewriter or a laptop and now its your turn to try it. Imagine how many people are doubting you and waiting for you to fail.

In my opinion, Carax has yet to fail, and he made the transition from criticism to filmmaking rather seamlessly.

In Boy Meets World, we follow "Alex" (Denis Lavant) - an aspiring young filmmaker who has yet to actually make a movie, and "Mireille" (Merielle Perrier) - a failed actress who is borderline suicidal. Both Alex & Mireille have just been dumped by their significant others and they're taking it pretty rough. After Alex overhears Mireille's voice by chance, without actually knowing what she looks like at first, he instantly falls in love with her. They eventually meet in person, and for the rest of the film we watch Alex & Mirielle try to make their new relationship work.

Although Boy Meets Girl is considered "arthouse", it transcends that label and can pretty much be enjoyed by anyone who likes offbeat romantic stories with a touch of drama & dry French quirkiness. Seriously tho - doesn't the basic plot sound like your typical romcom?
Unlike Carax's later work (Lovers On The Bridge & Holy Motors), Boy Meets Girl is a fairly minimalist work with a meager budget much like Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. The acting is very low key & monotone (like one notch above the emotion in a Bresson film), a lot of the cinematography is made up of single long takes, and even the actors' wardrobes are mostly plaid & pinstripe patterns to further play on the black & white imagery of the film (you get the feeling that even if this movie was shot in color, the clothes worn by the actors in Boy Meets Girl would've still been primarily black & white).
Given Carax's Cahier Du Cinema background, it only makes sense that the young filmmaker would borrow heavily from the French new wave directors who came before him at Cahiers, along with the older French auteurs who predate the French new wave. Carax's black & white deadpan feature is similar to Godard (the quirkiness & exploration of young French romance) mixed with Bresson (the minimalistic qualities & deadpan delivery of the actors). Mireille Perrier & Denis Lavant sometimes come off like another version of Anna Karina & Jean Paul Belmondo under the direction of a matured Robert Bresson.

Boy Meets Girl / A Woman Is A Woman

The scene in Boy Meets Girl where Mireille tap dances to comes off like something Anna Karina would do in a Godard film...

Boy Meets Girl / Band Of Outsiders

Denis Lavant went on to play the Alex character in two more lose sequels (Bad Blood & The Lovers On The Bridge). My one & only gripe with Boy Meets Girl is that Lavant is way more laid back and he doesn't flex his amazing physical ability until Bad Blood.

Leos even references his work in later films...
Lovers embrace on the bridge in Carax's Boy Meets Girl (1984) & The Lovers On The Bridge (1991)

Most great directors have their regular troop or that one actor or actress they  use regularly. We all know Scorsese had Deniro, Herzog had Kinski, Claire Denis has Alex Descas, Cassavetes had his gang of actors etc. Leos Carax & Denis Lavant are synonymous with each other. With the exception of the underrated/misunderstood Pola X, Lavant has been in every film directed by Carax. Many people, Carax included, consider Denis Lavant to be Carax's on-screen alter ego (it makes sense that Alex is an aspiring filmmaker/cinephile in Boy Meets Girl). This collaboration is obviously the most iconic because it started the three decade long relationship between the two.

Carax hadn't completely found his signature style yet (how many directors do on their first try?) but little bits & pieces were starting to poke through. The theme of break-ups & broken hearts, something Carax explored extensively in the years to come, all started with Boy Meets Girl. And the emphasis of a dance number or a musical sequence, something found in every single Carax feature, can also be traced right back to his feature debut.

Boy Meets Girl isn't the easiest to come by, but if you have a multi-region DVD player or a VCR, you can get it on amazon, which I highly recommend doing if you're in to minimalist quirky darkly comical French art house cinema.


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