Jamais

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I think I’d seen MAUVAIS SANG (ridiculously translated as THE NIGHT IS YOUNG) in around ’88, but maybe I only saw bits, on TV. At that time I thought Beineix was cool and I found Carax annoying. Now, though Carax is perhaps a bit precious at times, I regard my late-teenage affection for BETTY BLUE and DIVA as mostly youthful folly, and Carax seems like the true filmmaker.

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What’s black and white and red all over? This film, though it also has grey, and blue (so it can do Godardian tricolor shots) and the hero’s jacket is a sort of leather harlequin thing with a lot of yellow, a colour that appears otherwise only on the ubiquitous yellow cigarettes the cast smoke. Those yellow cigarettes, and the film’s fictional STD and sinister big pharma company (“Darley-Wilkinson” — always say the name twice, ominously — and those initials recall Griffith, from whose vaults Carax is stealing a disease called cinema) show Carax’s interest in world-building — a few little clues tell us that we’re at a slight remove from our usual reality. I suspect Carax of being inspired by REPO MAN.

The only movie flat-out quoted with a clip is the Pathe-Natan production LA PETITE LISE, seen on a TV set, and referenced in dialogue whenever the young Denis Lavant speaks of Julie Delpy’s character (“Ma petite Lise”). LA PETITE LISE, by the way, is the most important earl sound film that few of you will have seen. Like that film’s hulking hero, Lavant is newly released from prison but his freedom is to be short-lived…

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Lavant is so young! Bizarre and compelling and strangely beautiful, except when he smiles, terrifyingly, a lipless lesion crammed with crockery abruptly splitting his porous deadpan. He looks like if Lee Marvin had a monkey.

Fiona had been utterly charmed by Michel Piccoli in DIABOLIK. “Inspector Ginko is so NICE! He’s the nicest man in this whole film festival.” I don’t know if he’s that nice, but Piccoli plays him that way. He’s back here, older and heavier (Carax cruelly makes his aging crooks play lots of scenes shirtless. Crime seems very very homosocial, to say the least, despite the presence of Juliette Binoche.

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Binoche is already slightly annoying. But also sweet and gamine and surprising and stunningly photographed.

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The film is so fey — and it’s probably forty minutes too long — its B-movie antecedents moved their crime stories forward along with their romances, whereas this one drops the heist for huge stretches. I wish Carax was just 1% more into plot, or brought a friend along who was. But the charming bits are charming indeed, and the visuals beautiful, and Carax’s use of music, which somehow frustrated me as a kid (he cuts it off dead sometimes, like JLG) now seems generous and ecstatic.

EIFF is showing a season of Cinema du Look classics — LES AMANTS DU PONT-NEUF tomorrow!

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3 Responses to “Jamais”

  1. I met Oscar Alexandre Dupont (aka. Leos Carax) back when “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” was being promoted. Juliette Binoche was carrying him around like a clutch-purse — a role he greatly enjoyed. I was the only one who recognized him here in L.A. because I’d been following the fortunes (MIS-fortunes) of “Les Amants du Pont Neuf.” Monsieur Oscar was in L.A. a lot because his mother was a movie publicist here. “Les Amants” — which had four production companies collapse beneath its weight — was eventually completed. I was at the Chateau Marmont one afternoon to see Gus Van Sant and there was “Leos Carax” He invited me to a screening he was having at the Big Room at Universal that night. On a gigantic screen its Beyond Amazing. This was about a year and a half before the film’s U.S. “release” (It wasn’t released, it escaped) “Les Amants” is the greatest celluloid monument a filmmaker ever constructed for his girlfriend. After it was over so was “L’Affaire”
    After all she’d broken her leg during the water-skiing climax, and he’s Major Maintenance.

    Cue Kylie!

  2. Interesting that Les Amants is selling beaucoup tickets, despite having flopped at the time, and Mauvais Sang took quite a while to catch on with ticket-buyers here — in the end, it filled plenty of seats and was much enjoyed. It seems a bit like how Heaven’s Gate now exerts more fascination than The Deerhunter.

    And Denis Lavant has been in town to promote the Cinema du Look retrospective, along with Dominique Pinon — two of the great faces of our time!

  3. That’s because the “Millenials” know nothing about Vietnam.

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