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Leos Carax

Leos Carax

The son of a French journalist and American cultural critic, Carax spent a brief time as a film critic before turning his attention to filmmaking. He began making short films while still a teenager because he wanted to impress a girl in whom he was romantically interested. Indeed, his mature work owes something to that impulse. Carax has cast the females with whom he was then living in his films: Mireille Perrier in "Boy Meets Girl" (1984) and Juliette Binoche in both "Mauvais Sang/Bad Blood" (1986) and "Les Amants du Pont Neuf" (1991). He has also acknowledged indebtedness to Godard and to Philippe Garrel, with whom Carax shares an interest in silent films and a preoccupation with his leading ladies. The crux of Carax's films is romance, l'amour fou which was rather baldly stated in "Boy Meets Girl" or dealt with in a more complex manner in "Les Amants du Pont Neuf." "Boy Meets Girl," shot in a velvety black and white, was seemingly a plotless but atmospheric mood piece. Drawing on both silent films and post-modern culture, it utilized vignettes, punk music and a nihilistic point of view to depict the growing obsession between a twentysomething filmmaker and a suicidal woman. Critics in Europe and the USA heralded Carax as one to watch. "Mauvais Sang/Bad Blood" demonstrated the director's grasp of technique and his imaginative use of the medium. The flimsy plot concerns the attempt to steal a serum that counteracts a fictional AIDS-like disease that is contracted by those who make love without love. Drawing from a wide array of influences, the director deployed technical effects simply for their own sake. While it made for exceptional viewing (such as having one scene shift from color to flickering black and white), it divided critics. Some praised Carax's poetic instincts while others decried the lack of cohesion. While there are numerous sequences that in and of themselves are breath-taking (i.e., lovers parachuting from a plane, Lavant as Alex singing and dancing in the streets of Paris), the overall effect was deemed somewhat immature. Carax spent several years working on his third feature "Les Amants du Pont Neuf." Again the work divided critics; some felt the story too intimate for the broad canvas of Paris he employed; others extolled his use of the city as a character in the film (much as Woody Allen employed New York City in "Manhattan" 1979). Again drawing from any number of sources, from surrealism to expressionism, the film is both a leap forward and a revisiting of the same themes of the folly of love in what is basically the story of the courtship of a vagrant and a homeless woman facing blindness. Those championing the movie praised its fantastical elements, notably its sets, and its juxtaposition of so intimate a story against those elements. Carax teamed with one of his idols, Godard, to play Edmund in "King Lear" (1987). After nearly six years, he returned to the director's chair to helm "Pola X" (1999), a drama adapted from an obscure novel by Herman Melville ("Pierre, or The Ambiguities"), about a young man who abandons his wealthy existence to aid his illegitimate half-sister.
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