Friday, March 1, 2013

Boy Meets Girl

BOY MEETS GIRL                 B    
France  (100 mi)  1984  d:  Léos Carax 

A sad and overly melancholic film, featuring indulgent and completely self-absorbed characters, yet beautifully shot in Black and White on the streets of Paris by Jean Yves Escoffier, but the film suffers from over-stylization, where the impressive cinematic technique on display completely dwarfs the bleak portrait of humanity, filled with downbeat and excessively brooding characters that drift through the mysterious landscape of their empty lives, characters so alienated from the world around them that suicide is a prevalent theme.  Denis Lavant begins his journey in Carax films as the director’s impulsive alter-ego, reappearing in each of his first three films as Alex, excluded for some reason from POLA X (1999), easily the director’s biggest failure, and then resurfacing again in Holy Motors (2012) as Mr. Oscar, assuming the director’s middle name.  A nocturnal film taking place almost entirely over the course of one night, the film begins with Alex abandoned by his girlfriend, where his mindset is unstable to say the least, showing a violent tendency that nearly leads to murder, directed towards the friend his girlfriend left him for, but instead he soon becomes infatuated by another girl who has also just broken up with her boyfriend, Mireille (Mireille Perrier, the director’s girlfriend at the time), who is seen more as an illusion than someone real.  In fact, it’s hard to tell just how much of this film may actually be the ramblings of an overactive imagination, where it could all be taking place inside Alex’s mind, such as this scene of Mireille, unsubtitled, set to The Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia,” where the former boyfriend returns for a brief, unintelligible conversation over the intercom, all observed by Alex,  where it’s clear this feels more like the mad and incoherent ramblings of two lost souls who are drifting apart in the night, a theme that pervades throughout the film Carax - Boys Meets Girls - 1984 - FRA (Interphone Scene ... - YouTube (4:36). 

The film is an expressionist reverie not far removed from Sartre’s first existential novel Nausea, a story concerning a man’s tenuous relationship with the surrounding city, offering glimpses into the anguish of the human soul through stream-of-conscious thoughts, as if reading pages from an intimate diary, where the writer is suffocating from a kind of existential dread where life is meaningless unless a person makes personal connections that give it meaning.  While one often feels immersed in a world of personal disgust and despair, these are fleeting and temporary moments in time, soon replaced by others just as ephemeral.  In much the same manner, Alex is barely connected to the elusively shifting world around him, estranged from friends and family, living alone in a tiny room, filled with his own enveloping interior sense of alienation and dread, constantly seen taking a drug, like popping liquid amyl nitrate, where he doesn’t so much inhabit the world as float through it in some strange and dream-like voyage through time, remaining disconnected from the world he lives in, as if unable to be a part of it.  People don’t converse so much as offer long and rambling monologues, reflective of a dreary and joyless existence where characters remain connected to some longstanding interior pain, unable to separate themselves from this anguish and personal trauma they carry around with them wherever they go.  Carax expresses this disconnection through jarring choices of music, or the use of long tracking shots, where the composition throughout is superb, often resorting to expressionist lighting, which has a dramatic effect, such as when one character is seen in sharp focus while another just inches away is slightly out of focus.      

Moody and overly detached throughout, there are brief moments that touch a different note entirely, such as Mireille pulling out a board in her apartment in order to practice tap dancing, an homage to the more playful moments of Anna Karina dancing in Godard’s BAND OF OUTSIDERS (1964) Bande à part (1964) - Dance scene [HD] YouTube (3:57), yet it’s connected to an extended sequence set to David Bowie’s “When I Live My Dream” where Alex wanders alone through the darkened night, where at one point he stops and stares, remaining infatuated by a couple kissing on the street, eventually tossing them a few coins as if this was a street performance "Boy Meets Girl" Bowie song (When I Live My Dream) - YouTube (3:43).  After a lengthy period where she exists only in his mind, Alex finally meets Mireille during an extended party sequence, knowing she’ll be there, so he crashes the party, yet is affectionately greeted with perfect bourgeois manners by the American party hostess (Carroll Brooks), before leaving him to fend for himself sitting between an elderly deaf-mute man (Albert Braun) and his gorgeous sign interpreter (Frédérique Charbonneau), insisting young people have forgotten how to talk Boy Meets Girl - Silent films were better, because... YouTube (3:18), before engaging Alex with tales of the old days of Silent cinema where he worked as a dolly grip, but Alex soon drifts off, following Mireille who’s in the bathroom, as it appears she’s about to commit suicide (we later realize she instead cuts her hair much shorter), leaving her alone as he slips into the kitchen where the hostess finds him alone, strangely confessing a piece of her heart, seen as a small part of an elongated party sequence Boys meets Girls - YouTube (9:52).  The party itself is a gloomy gathering honoring a dead soul, the brother of the hostess, the loss reflected in her quietly suppressed despair, which perfectly matches the depressed melancholia of the other characters.  Carax frames them beautifully here in an unsubtitled sequence Boy Meets Girl - Imbattable - YouTube (2:10) with Alex suddenly inspired, his soul aflame, interestingly expressed through the use of voiceover, where the film is a thinly disguised reflection of the director’s inner world, continually referencing dreamy thoughts of romantic longings that are ultimately frustrated by the reality of lost love and alienation.      

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