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Boy Meets Girl is a funny, tender, sex positive romantic comedy that explores what it means to be a real man or woman, and how important it is to live a courageous life not letting fear stand in the way of going after your dreams.
Jean Devereux Koester
In 1997, for it's fiftieth anniversary, the Cannes Film Festival asked Leos Carax for a short film, a kind of postcard addressed to the festival, in which the director would give news of himself and of his film project "Pola X".
Paris by night. Alex, 22, wants to become a filmmaker. He is fascinated by first times and his girlfriend, Florence, has just left him for his best friend, Thomas. First break-up, first attempted murder: Alex tries to strangle Thomas, but gives up and wanders the streets. That evening, Mireille, a girl from provincial France who has come up to Paris to make commercials, is left by her boyfriend. Alex witnesses this separation. These two tormented souls run into each other at a party....
I had never heard of Leos Carax until his Merde segment in last years Tokyo, and his was easily the stand-out the film's three stories. It wasn't my favorite of the shorts, but it was the most unique, and the most iconic. "The Lovers on the Bridge" was the first of his full length features I've seen, a virtuoso romantic film that uses image and music to communicate an exuberant young love that overflows into the poetic. Though he's classified as a neo-nouvelle vogue, his films owe as much to silent cinema as the 60's experimental narratives. His movies are closer to Jean Vigo in "L'atlante", Jean Cocteau, and Guy Maddin, than Godard and Truffaut.
In Boy Meets Girl Carax's 1984 debut he uses black and white and the heavy reliance on visual representation to display emotional states. He combines the exaggerated worlds of Maddin, but based in a reality that never seems quite stable like Cocteau, but by virtue of its expressions it becomes more accessible, emotional, and engaging like Vigo's movies.
The story of Boy Meets Girl is simple, and similar to Carax's two following films which comprise this "Young lovers" trilogy. A boy named Alex played by Denis Lavant (who plays a character named Alex in Carax's next two movies), has just been dumped by his girlfriend who has fallen in love with his best friend. In the first scene he nearly kills his friend on a boardwalk but stops short of murder. He walks around reminded of her by sounds of his neighbors having sex, and daydreams of his girlfriend and best friend getting intimate. He steals records for her and leaves them at his friend's apartment, but avoids contacting either of them directly. He wanders around and finds his way to a party, where he meets a suicidal young woman, and the film becomes part "Breathless" and part "Limelight".
Later he is advised by an old man with sign language to "speak up for yourself...young people today It's like they forgot how to talk." The old man gives an anecdote about working in the days of silent film, and how an actor timid off stage became a confident "lion" when in front of the camera. Heres where the movie tips its hand, but the overt reference to silent film is a crucial scene, since it overlaps the style of the film (silent and expressionist), with the content (a lovelorn young man trying to work up the courage to say and do the things he really wants to). Though Alex is pensive at first and a torrent of romantic words tumbling out of him by the end, he is the shy actor who becomes a lion thanks to the films magnification of his inward feelings which aren't easy to nail down from moment to moment, aside from a desire to fall in love.
There is a scene in the film where Alex retreats from the party into a room where the guests have stashed their children and babies, all crying in a chorus that fills that room, until he turns on a tape of a children's show making them fall silent. Unexpectedly due a glitch the TV ends up playing a secret bathroom camera which reveals the hostess sobbing to herself into her wig about someone she misses. Even as Carax is self-reflexive and self deprecating of the very kind of angst ridden coming of age tale he is trying to tell (the room full of whining infants), he's mature enough to see through the initial irony to the lovelorn in everything the film crosses. Even the rich old, bell of the ball has a brother she misses. In another scene an ex astronaut stares at the moon he once walked on in his youth while sipping a cocktail in silence.
Though indebted to films before talkies, Carax is a master of music, knowing when to pipe in the Dead Kennedy's "Holiday in Cambodia", or an early David Bowie song, the sounds of a man playing piano, or of a girl softly humming.
In Boy Meets Girl, when someone gets their heart broken we see blood pour from their shirt, when a couple kiss on the sidewalk they spin 360 degrees as if attached to a carousel, when Alex enters a party an feels out of place, its because the most interesting people in the world really are in attendance; like the famous author who can't speak because of a bullet lodged in his brain, or the miss universe of 1950 standing just across from the astronaut. This film is the missing link between Jean Piere Jenuet, Michel Gondry, and Wes Anderson, whose stylistic flourishes and quirky tales of whimsy, all have a parallel with different visuals, musical, and emotional cues in these Carax movies.
Every line of dialog, every piece of music and every effect and edit in this movie resonated with me on some emotional level, some I lack words to articulate. There are many tales of a boy meeting a girl, but rather than just explore the banal details of any particular event this movie captures the ecstatic truth of adolescent passion and disappointment. The other movies you want to watch can wait. See this first. If I were to make films, I would want them to be like this, in fact I wish all films were like this, where the ephemeral becomes larger than life, and life itself becomes a dream.
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