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|Index||17 reviews in total|
You will remember Mauvais Sang because of:
- its unique & very recognizable director's style;
- visual experiments that have broadened the cinema art horizon (please
don't forget that this film was released in 1986 and was copied since
in many other films and videos, which makes it less experimental
- high energy level due to variation in static close-ups and dynamic
shot by the moving camera;
- love story that touches but stays far away from clichés;
- plot that plays with stereotypes of a gangster film and leaves enough
space for your imagination.
Visual ideas of Leos Carax can be encountered in, for instance, Romeo + Juliet by Buz Luhrmann, Delicatessen by Jeunet & Caro and a recent art house hit - Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
You would not see such a treatment to a film in mainstream Hollywood,
perhaps not even in independents. There are all the elements of a gangster
movie and then some: the fall guy, the family talk, the villains visit (the
boss is an American woman), the secret ploy, the deftly heist, the car (and
motorcycle) chases, and flying of bullets. Writer-director Leos Carax spared
no expense in delivering his stylish French gangster film with pizzazz - he
included a bold parachuting from a plane aerial sequence, all this in
addition to his usual stock of heart and soul characters, and graphic
cinematography with visual poetry.
The central pursuit of love is never left out in a Carax story. In fact we have more than double dosage here: Denis Levant's Alex has Julie Delpy's Lise faithfully haunting him, besides his loving attraction to Juliette Binoche's Anna, who is hypnotically in love with Michel Piccoli's veteran gangster Marc.
Carax's script and dialogs are well polished (the subtitles did do justice). There are mentions of Haley's Comet; repeat references to hot weather; hi-tech allusions of "Darley-Wilkinson" with moneymaking "STBO" cure to a deadly virus. There is a certain playfulness to the tone of the whole film: besides demonstrations of Alex's ventriloquial skill, there are love interludes; pop music delivery with frames of Levant's foot a-running and dancing; casual sing-alongs in a convertible during an escape; undying exchanges while gut's a-bleeding; Hans Meyer, playing Marc's partner Hans, provided dashes of humor through his presence.
This is definitely a film to appreciate. "Mauvais Sang" was made in 1986 and many of its elements and scenes were mimicked in later Hollywood/independent flicks, affirming the creative genius in Leos Carax, a French filmmaker extraordinaire.
Thanks to Landmark Theatres in the Bay Area, foreign film goers in San Francisco were given a chance to see all four of Leos Carax feature films. Bravo!
CAHIERS DU CINÉMA: There are no rules to cinema. No set way of getting
from point A to point B, or a general expectation on the part of the
filmmaker to include certain themes and conventions for the benefit of
the audience. A film should make us think and feel; the rest is purely
secondary. At twenty-six years old, Leos Carax understood this notion
perfectly; taking inspiration from the early Nouvelle Vague films of
director Jean Luc Godard and producing a work that underlined the key
themes already established in his bleak and beautiful debut feature,
Boy Meets Girl (1984), albeit, with a more clearly-defined and
pronounced approach to the conventions of genre and narrative. Like
Godard's early work, such as À bout de soufflé (1960), Bande à part
(1964) and Pierrot le fou (1965), Mauvais Sang (1986) focuses on a
number of weighty, existentialist themes - such as unrequited love and
the alienation of Parisian youth - disguised by a series of hard-boiled
genre conventions - brazenly lifted from post-war crime cinema and
early film noir - and an approach to character that is filled with wit,
emotion and searing imagination.
L'ÉNFANT TERRIBLE: As ever with Carax, the results are unconventional and highly unique, as we follow a story that is deliberately trivialised in comparison to the more important hopes and dreams of the central characters, whose collective spirit of defiance, adventure and melancholic yearning spill out into the actual visual presentation of the film itself. Here, the similarities to Boy Meets Girl are clear, with lead actor Denis Lavant once again portraying a misfit character named Alex who here comes to act as a representation for Carax himself. However, unlike Boy Meets Girl, the film is this time presented in bold and vivid colour, with much of the action taking place on purposely built sets that fall somewhere between the traditional Gothic architecture of actual, rural France and the cold, retro-futurist design of Terry Gilliam's masterpiece Brazil (1985). Once again, the design of the film reflects the ideas behind the characters, with the notions of escape and of closing yourself off from the outside world and indulging in romantic folly being central to the underlining spirit of the characters, which are here, more important than the widely recognisable aspects of narrative development.
CINÉMA DU LOOK: By visualising the film in such a manner, Carax is able to create a stark and somewhat surreal nocturnal underworld where his characters hide out - free from the rules of society and the conventions of time - with the production design, cars and costumes all standing as deliberate anachronisms to maintain the idea of a world removed from our own. It also works with the ironic, referential tone, in which elements of Godard give way to Chapin, who gives way to Welles, who gives way to West Side Story (1961), and all wrapped up in a preposterous plot that ties in with other French films of this cinematic period - later dubbed the "cinema du look" - in particular, Diva (1981) by Jean Jacques Beineix and Subway (1985) by Luc Besson. The basic outline of the story behind Mauvais Sang involves Lavant's young street punk running away from responsibility and inadvertently ending up helping two elderly criminals in a plot to steal an AIDS like virus from a futuristic, high-security laboratory, so that they can pay off an out-standing debt to a matriarchal Mafia boss. Along the way he dodges an old adversary and the girlfriend that he left behind and falls head over heels in love with the young fiancé of one of the criminals that he's there to help.
L'AMOUR MODERN: This strand of the narrative is the one that is most clearly defined here, both in the romanticised nature of the film and the world view of its characters, as well as the appropriation of the American crime-film references and pretensions to post-war melodrama. Here, Alex is quite literally a boy playing the part of a gangster, with his self-consciously hard-boiled dialog, swagger and no nonsense attitude as he talks about his time spent in a young offender's institute, and how it has turned his insides into cement. Through his relationship with Anna - herself a cinematic reference to Anna Karina, right down to the Vivre sa Vie (1962) haircut - the weight of Alex's internal angst and macho bravado begins to erode, leading to that near-iconic moment in which our hero, realising his unspoken love for Anna, runs down the street in an exaggerated tracking shot, skipping, jumping and cart-wheeling to the sound Bowie's Modern Love. An astounding and unforgettable sequence that comes out of nowhere and immediately reinforces the film's unique sense of romantic fantasy and pure escapism against a backdrop of would-be gangster theatrics.
STRANGULATION BLUES: The juxtaposition between grit, melodrama, fantasy and genre subversion is characteristic of Carax's work, with the self-consciously artificial world of the film and the playful and yet decidedly romantic nature of Alex and Anna's relationship tying together the themes of Boy Meets Girl with those of the director's third film, the grand cinematic "disaster" Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf (1991). Like those films, Mauvais Sang uses concept and narrative merely to present a reason for the characters to meet and interact, as the rest of the film develops from a collection of random scenes - linked by one or two reoccurring characters - that accumulate over the course of the film's duration to create a kind of whole. With this film, Carax created a fascinating cinematic abstraction of young love and alienation, unfolding in a world in which the representation of the audience is a young voyeur played by the director himself; a keen comment on the nature of film, and yet another fascinating component to this striking, unique and highly imaginative ode to love, escapism, and cinema itself.
Having seen only his incredibly intense 1999 film, Pola X, I didn't exactly know what to expect with Bad Blood. The film is as a whole not as effective as the later film, but it serves to solidify Leos Carax in my mind as a truly great director. I love both films, and this one is definitely flawed, but the poetry which comes through onto the screen is absolutely incredible. Alex running down the street to Bowie, the motorcycle getaway, and the amazingly passionate and beautiful final scenes will remain with me for a while... the film is exquisitely wild and reckless and is truly innovative in the way it's put together. Even as I write this, shot after shot and scene after scene resurface in my mind, all of them worthy of mention, and all of them gorgeous and shattering in their own way. Carax is a deserving heir to the thrones erected by the new wave. Bad Blood is the work of a master, whether the film itself is a masterpiece or not... The characters are wonderfully crafted with very nice performances by everyone, it's very watchable and very human poetry of the highest calibre. See it, see a Leos Carax film, any of his films - I'm going to track down Boy Meets Girl and Lovers on the Bridge as soon as I can.
'By the time you finally learn how to live, it's too late.' This brilliant, bizarre, unique film is one more proof that Leos Carax is a genius. The film is so extreme in its technique and imagery that it can be placed in no category. Everything about it is original, even its derivative aspects. Carax is unconventional even when copying or echoing. Sometimes the film is so mannered and arch that it resembles a cartoon strip. But this is playfully misleading. At other times, the film is desperately emotional and heart-rending. It even has hyper-realistic close-ups of microscopic details. The lighting is crisp, hyper-real also. It is so hyper-real that it is utterly surreal. It is designed to oscillate between the real and the imagined constantly, at an ever increasing rate, in order to drive the viewer mad. Soon the viewer will be almost as insane as the director, or so the director hopes, and then the viewer will at last understand. One of the aims of the director is to reduce the viewer to pulp, but not just any pulp: he must be reduced to pulp fiction. Everything is a joke, but also everything is serious. Nothing has only one side to it. The heavily stylized approach is shown in every respect. The sets are carefully colour-coded, with red a major theme, appearing in ties and on walls, in velvet, in blood, often contrasted with black. There is a spectacular, manically exciting sequence where the young hero (Denis Lavant) impulsively runs down the street doing a spontaneous dance to a David Bowie song, and the camera tracks along beside him for a very long time. This kind of 'moving mania' (not unlike a totally berserk form of 'movie mania') has the restless and impassioned insistence upon constant motion that one sees in his next film, 'The Lovers of the Pont Neuf' with the speed boat on the Seine and the fireworks. In the story, also written by Carax, we have so much influence of Andre Breton's novel 'Nadja': love for the impossible woman who is obviously insane in her irresistibly fascinating way, chance encounters, the miraculous erupting in everyday life, impossible visions (when the hero first sees Juliette Binoche on a bus, but cannot make out her features properly through the glass, and yet knows that he loves her already because he 'feels' her). We have the impossibly beautiful Julie Delpy aged only 19, and already in her sixth film, with the unformed face of an infant, and yet her eyes deep pools of passion already, the eyes of a passionate child in that perfect Madonna face. Juliette Binoche is 22 but looks twelve, and her beauty is greater even than that of Delpy's, we cannot take our eyes off her, her calm is the calm of a lake when there is no wind, her face is the face of a lake with no clouds, her beauty is the beauty of a lake in the sunset, the sleekness of her movements is that of a fish glimpsed for a moment as it leaps above the surface of that lake. The story is purposely mocked by the film, its pretext of a thriller plot so absurd that we are encouraged to laugh, realizing there is no plot, there is only life. A virus is spreading: it is killing those who make love without loving, and the vaccine must be stolen. Such is the 'plot'. There are various inside jokes. The director himself plays 'the neighbourhood voyeur, who peeks through the window every night', a fine rebuke of the director against himself. Then there is an earnest conversation is a café where a hardened killer and gangster suddenly breaks off and insists that he sees Jean Cocteau on the other side of the room with his back turned, until he is reminded that Jean Cocteau is dead. There are many intensely stylized shots of the backs of heads. Features and faces are often masked: at one point, Binoche peeks through a hole she has torn in a paper napkin. In another scene, Delpy has a scarf stretched across her face below her eyes for the entire time. There is an interlude in the film in the middle of the night, when all the characters in the story are asleep. So of course, Carax being Carax, he shows them all sleeping in their respective beds in their respective abodes, just to let us see that side of them; the sinister American woman gangster ('the Americaine') has her lipstick all smudged as she lies unconscious, lost in her undoubtedly vicious dream. The young lead is called Alex, which is Carax's real first name (the name Leos Carax being an anagram, the man Leos Carax being an enigma, Alex Dupont being Leos Carax, this film being Alex Dupont being Leos Carax being a voyeur). Everything is original. It is true that some of it verges on farce, saved at the last minute by Carax's brilliance from jumping in front of the Metro just as a man does in the opening sequence. Carax is always about to throw himself and his film in front of the oncoming train. He is always about to throw his train in front of an oncoming film. He is always about to be serious, he is always serious. He is a daredevil. Just as his characters throw themselves into the sky from a plane, parachuting for no evident reason, with Binoche passing out before she can pull her ripcord but being saved by the hero who clutches her in his arms and pulls his for them both (we see shots of them looking down from inside the parachute, and how he filmed those I really cannot imagine), so Carax pulls his own ripcord over and over again, with every minute of the film, and saves it repeatedly from tumbling to earth, with the awe-inspiring audacity of his manic, uncontrollable creativity.
This is the best film in Love trilogy of Leos Carax. Leos Carax said he is always interested in Greek mythology. He successfully showed that Greek mythology in this film through a main character, Denis Lavant. He has the Oedipus complex about his father, but his father are killed by someone. And, father's friend looks for Alex to get a help for a crime. Also, he is falling in love with a mystery woman. However, she loves father's friend. Thus, he has the Oedipus complex about father's friend again even though his father died. And, he commits a crime with father's friend. This film shows fantastic images and perfect performance by Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant and Michel Piccoli. The ending scene is unforgettable.
I think music used throughout this reveals quite a bit of the cinematic
- Prokofiev's Roméo and Juliette, so a ballet, a cinematic opera on forbidden love between youth that aches to dream. Love that cannot be consummated in the ugly day of light and has to take to dreams, liebestod, Tristan and Isolde.
- Limelight tied into this, that precious bit of Chaplin beneath the big old sappy narratives that was purely evocative body, that was in essence a dance between innocence and star-crossed fate.
- David Bowie, 'Modern Love' aptly enough, so the rush of purely energetic instrumentation, dazzling camera beats, irony, New Wave atonality, in this case the song randomly caught on radio and meant to guide feelings, a dadaist gesture. Denis Lavant leaps across the frame with his wiry seething-petite frame that reminds a bit of the old silent comedians, he's a real pleasure to watch just move.
In something like Beau Travail also with Lavant and operatic, space is arranged bodily, the whole thing is cinematic and flows. Not so here. The guy responsible for this wants to be a little like Godard, so we have the interminable recitations, the poetry, the deliberately crude crime plot where you only need a gun and a girl, always Godard's weaker spots.
This too bad. Because there are visual moments here that left me practically giddy, for example love as a matter of leaping from a plane, a matter of joint flight and tenderly balancing mid-air.
Instead we get a patchy, stuttery ride that only now and then blossoms into some internal scenery.
The opportunity missed is that the eye dances but is not fully consumed with its musical capacity. Nouvelle Vague ruins this by proxy. I like to think that Wong Kar Wai saw this and immediately knew which parts worked.
The Alex Trilogy which is made up of this "Boy Meets Girl" and "The Lovers On The Bridge" is a great cinematic treasure, everyone who likes movies should try to watch. I guarantee anyone who watches this will at least like one. This sci-fi/heist movie second part of the trilogy is set in a world of venereal disease where "The Love without Love" sex without love, can be fatal. Alex is the son of a great thief, whose old mates hire him in the hopes that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. Alex falls in love Juliette Binoche, one of his fellow criminals daughter/lover(I was a bit confused about that part). Nothing else needs to be said because nothing else is important. Leos Carax's films are poetry they whimsical and stylish and romantic and personal and frenzied. Cinema is a stage where Carax's Alex finds himself repeatedly at odds with the world and in search of connection, sometimes he finds it, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he, lives sometimes he dies. The only constants are David Bowie songs, dancing, and general awesomeness. Denis Lavant's rocket sprint to "Modern Love" is as close to sublime as movies get.
The best thing about this French New Wave throwback certainly isn't the narrative-impaired non-story, in which an aging criminal in debt (Michel Piccoli) enlists the young son of a dead colleague for a daring robbery of a pharmaceutical company. The combination of familiar pulp fiction outline with stylishly indulgent camera technique recalls the early work of Truffaut and Godard, and in true nouvelle-vague tradition writer director Leos Carax eventually dismisses his plot altogether to concentrate, at length and to little purpose, on the visual mood of his film. Along the way a bittersweet romance is (almost) allowed to develop between Piccoli's young mistress (Juliete Binoche) and hired thief Denis Lavant, whose angular punk features and physique (he was trained as an acrobat and mime) provide a fascinating contrast to his co-star's cool, reflective calm. The attention Carax lavishes on Binoche, who isn't required to do much more than simply look demure, may seem to border on infatuation, but some latitude should be allowed for the relative youth of the 26 year old auteur.
I am fascinated by Leos Carax. In more than 30 years he made just a
handful of long films, but what films these are. Each of them reminds
me when I get to see them why I love and I am fascinated by cinema, and
what an art film making can be under the hands of a director who knows
the secrets and ingredients of turning each film, and each scene in his
films in something different, something that charms, shocks, can be
enjoyable or repulsive, but cannot leave us indifferent.
Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood is the literal translation) will be 30 years old next year. Yet it is not only as fresh as it was made yesterday, but it also has the quality that will make it relevant 30, 60, and 90 years from now (I do not make bets about future that extend between one century :-) ). It's a gangster story in the French tradition, Melville's movies come to mind immediately, and the fact that some of the bad guys are American is actually also a French noir films tradition. Although the making of the film is closer to David Lynch's peak period, 'Mauvais Sang' precludes the best of what Tarantino will make 10 or 15 years later. I actually have almost no doubt that both Lynch and Tarantino saw this film several times and were deeply inspired by it. It is however more - it is a double love story, or two love stories which are sensitive and beautifully told. And then, the final scene makes - so it seems to me - a reverence to 'Casablanca'.
What gives such quality to 'Mauvais Sang'? First, the actors. Michel Piccoli- at the edge of seniority, playing the gangster - combinator whose combines not always succeed best. Breathtakingly beautiful and young Juliette Binoche in one of her first major roles. And, of course, Denis Lavant, Caras's best acting asset ever. Then the cinematography. I do not know how much we owe to Caras and how much to the director of cinematography Jean-Yves Escoffier but almost each shot is a piece of art, and the colors combinations are sublime and uniquely expressive - just watch the repeated combinations of blue, white and red! There are the ingredients, but the ultimate merit belongs without doubt to Leos Carax, a master chef of the French cinema.
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