Sun, Mar 10, 2002 - Page 24 News List

Leos Carax: love as fodder for film

Though he's made only four films in two decades, filmmaker Leos Carax has been hailed as a giant of the French cinema

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

It is no exaggeration to say that Leos Carax is a super-romanticist filmmaker. All three of his earliest works are visually stunning pictures in which the protagonists give up their lives for love. The film's actresses look eternally sad but extraordinarily beautiful. And he always becomes lovers with his actresses: Mireille Perrier in Boy Meets Girl, Juliette Binoche in Bad Blood and Lovers on the Bridge and Yekaterina Golubeva in Pola X, Carax's current girlfriend.

"When I made a film, it was always with, and for my lovers," said the 41 year-old French director. "I hope this will change, though," he added.

Yes, this small guy with untidy hair and a cigarette always in hand is the artist who once had Juliette Binoche madly in love with him. During the three years shooting Lovers on the Bridge, Binoche risked derailing her career by not taking any other acting projects.

Yet Leos Carax is also no doubt an odd filmmaker. When he debuted at the age of 22, he was labeled as the next big thing after the French New Wave of the 1960s, the "natural heir of Jean-luc Godard" and reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman.

His second and third films Bad Blood and Lovers on the Bridge were labeled by French critics as the New Baroque style in French filmmaking of the late 1980s and 1990s, for the glamorous visual images in the films.

In general, critics and audiences alike see Carax's films in one of two extremes, with some calling them pretentious and tedious, and others praising them as genius, ambitious and earnest. In 18 years of filmmaking he has only made four feature films. His latest, Pola X (1999) was made following a self-imposed exile of eight years.

"I traveled, I read, I fell in love and also I felt sick," said the slightly melancholy Carax, explaining what he had been doing during his years away from the director's chair.

The quiet filmmaker has cheered up a bit, however, during his stay this week in Taipei. Invited as a Director in Focus to the Taipei Film Festival, he has enjoyed the organizer's hospitality and gotten to taste his favorite Chinese cuisines.

He said he is not making a film right now and doesn't have a plan. "But maybe I will act more than I direct," said Carax. "I just proposed to Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) that I would be happy to be his actor," he said nibbling a bite of pork while talking to Taipei Times.

Boy Meets Girl is a captivating black-and-white picture about heartbroken Alex (Denis Lavant), who meets Mireille (Mireille Perrier), herself recently heartbroken. It was the film's visual design and its aura of alienation that won Carax critical acclaim at Cannes Film Festival in 1984.

Bad Blood (1986) has the initial appearance of a futuristic gang film, but is, again, about a painful romance between alienated Alex and cold, beautiful Juliette Binoche who is torn between old and new love. Carax's camera gazes at actresses Binoche and Julie Delpy in different angles and photographic methods, reflection and refraction, to let their faces radiate in individual glamour. There was also the single shot of Denis Lavant dancing, jumping and running fast down the street to David Bowie's Modern Love -- truly a masterful shot.

And of course there is Lovers on the Bridge (1991), Carax's first big-budget commercial film which won Juliette Binoche a Best Actress award and also Best Cinematography and Best Editing at the European Film Awards.

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