Perhaps we can thank the critical success of his 2012 masterwork, Holy Motors for the resurgence of interest in the early works of Leos Carax, including not only a new documentary about the enigmatic filmmaker, but restorations and notable Blu-ray transfers of his first two titles, Boy Meets Girl (1984) and Mauvais Sang (1986) from Carlotta Films.
The introduction of Carax’s onscreen alter ego Denis Lavant, present in each of his five titles except for 1999’s troubled Pola X, feels very much like a loving homage of the Nouvelle Vague mixed with sublimation of melancholy emptiness in 1980s excess and the hollow virtues of young adulthood. In comparison to his other titles, Boy Meets Girl does feel very much like Carax’s first film, an artist figuring out his emotional resonance, his stylistic fascinations, a title that, in look and style feels strangely similar to David Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead (1977), another product of a creative force still dubious and uncertain. But like Lynch, Carax’s delectable allure marked him as significant from the starting gate, and his debut is as equally inventive as the films it pays homage to, including Godard’s Breathless (1960).
The narrative is deceptively simple—a young filmmaker, Alex (Denis Lavant), on the eve of having to report for military service, is abandoned by his girlfriend Florence, who leaves him for another man, Thomas. Upset, he prowls Parisian streets listening to his headphones, revisiting a map in his apartment of old haunts that marked important moments in his young life. Stealing records of an artist named Barbara, he means to give them to Florence, forcing them under her door. Meanwhile, Mireille (Mireille Perrier) is also being left by her boyfriend, and Alex happens to overhear their drama via an intercom exchange. Alex becomes enamored with Mirielle, getting himself invited to a swank party to be near her, though she’s at first oblivious. Finally, they’re able to share what they believe to be their significant emotional baggage.
Whatever your preferred Carax title, it’s the presence of the indomitable physicality of Denis Lavant that often supersedes all else, and Boy Meets Girl is no exception. David Bowie’s featured here on the soundtrack, but it would be Lavant’s freewheeling scamper through the streets to “Modern Love” in Mauvais Sang that really strikes a memorable chord. Master and muse are still coalescing here, though it’s fair to say that Lavant’s a favorable comparison to the near-suicidal character played by Perrier, whose tortured visage resembles more Maria Falconetti than common comparison to Jean Seberg.
Available for the first time on Blu-ray and digitally restored, it does feel like Boy Meets Girl is one of the unsung classics from an era where Carax bloomed alongside the likes of Jean-Jacques Beneix and Luc Besson in the early 1980s, new auteurs in conversation and juxtaposed with the works of New Wave filmmakers still churning out their own stream of notable titles. Presented here, the film is luminous, even haunting, a handful of spectacular moments, such as Lavant viewed through the cracked glass of a phone booth a testament to Carax’s eye for the beauty in damaged goods.
Denis Lavant Screen-test:
Eight minutes of Denis Lavant’s screen-test are included, who, with earphones on as music plays, discusses his interpretation of Alex.
On Set – “In the Kitchen:”
Eighteen minutes of actual on set footage from a sequence of the film are included. Visuals are murky and have not been restored, so it’s certainly an eye sore compared to the feature.
Carax’s narratives tend to be non-linear, emotion based tangents of passionate yearning and bizarre interaction, and Boy Meets Girl is no exception. His only black and white feature, Carax would use DoP Jean-Yves Escoffier for all three films in his ‘l’amour fou’ trilogy, and this first endeavor happens to be the most visually evocative of the three features. Though not as ambitious as the two films that follow it, including Mauvais Sang and Lovers on the Bridge, Carax’s debut sweeps us into the hopeful melancholy of the nocturnal Parisian streets, and we succumb easily to his idiosyncrasies, all caught up in the coattails of an impossibly young Denis Lavant.