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Boy Meets Girl (DVD)

The terms "narcissist," "self-indulgent," and "enfant terrible" have often been used to describe French director Leos Carax over his turbulent career, during which he's made only four features: 1984's Boy Meets Girl, 1986's Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood), 1991's The Lovers On The Bridge, and 1999's Pola X. His guilt on all counts not only fails to diminish his status as one of the world's most exciting filmmakers, but also helps explain his idiosyncratic genius. Combining the emotional intensity of Hollywood melodramas, the dazzling artifice of studio musicals, and the stylistic liberation of the French New Wave, Carax's extravagantly personal vision could easily be perceived as egotism run amok. But there's intoxicating magic and melancholy to be found in the emptied streets of his after-hours cityscape, where wandering souls are drawn to each other through some strange cosmic connection. Love strikes quickly and leaves an irrevocable mark in Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang, the first two entries in Carax's l'amour fou trilogy, but it never guarantees reciprocation. In both films, Carax's alter ego Denis Lavant (Beau Travail), whose craggy face evokes a prizefighter on a losing streak, finds love in tiny, seemingly insignificant moments out of time. In Boy Meets Girl, he's entranced by Mireille Perrier's disembodied voice as she breaks up with her boyfriend over an apartment intercom. Still reeling from a disastrous relationship of his own, Lavant becomes obsessed with her well before they first crash into each other at a party. Shot in luminous black and white, Boy Meets Girl moves with the youthful, anarchic spirit of Godard's early work, endlessly detouring through surreal comedy, romantic philosophizing, and spontaneous flights of fancy. A scene in which Perrier snaps her head around to Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia" anticipates the emotional release in Carax's famed setpieces, which reached a crescendo with the bicentennial fireworks display in The Lovers On The Bridge. Carax topped himself with that sequence, but otherwise, nothing in his work is as purely joyful as Lavant leaping and cartwheeling down a city sidewalk to David Bowie's "Modern Love" in Mauvais Sang, perhaps his most fully realized effort to date. Spurned by the enigmatically beautiful Juliette Binoche, who's devoted to a petty hood (Michel Piccoli) nearly twice her age, he flails around as if trying to exorcise his feelings for her through dance. After a rival gang murders his estranged father, the man's old associates recruit Levant to steal the vaccine for STBO, a sexually transmitted disease that's rapidly spreading among young people. Set in a not-so-distant future, Mauvais Sang seems at first like an AIDS allegory, but STBO's aetiology—it attacks lovers who have sex without feeling; even when one partner doesn't feel love, both are infected—suggest that it's more like Carax Syndrome. It's a rare and transcendent period in Carax's films when two people really connect with each other. His characters live for these moments, which are all the more romantic for being so finite. The DVD editions of Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang each include a short interview segment with the director, conducted by film critic and programmer Kent Jones. Fortunately for the painfully reticent Carax, his work speaks for itself.


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