By Don Simpson | August 7, 2014
Director: Leos Carax
Writer: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Lavant, Mireille Perrier, Carroll Brooks, Maïté Nahyr, Elie Poicard, Christian Cloarec, Lorraine Berger, Marc Desclozeaux, Anna Baldaccini, Evelyne Schmitt, Jean Duflot, P’tit Louis
Wandering aimlessly around the noirish streets of Paris, Alex (Denis Lavant) is still recovering from the painful demise of a tumultuous relationship. A disheveled dreamer, Alex’s tousled hair and lack of ambition gives him the allusion of being much younger than his actual age of 22, while his world weary persona suggests that he is an old soul. Obsessed with love, Alex finds himself forever haunted by the fatalist notion of the hopelessness of relationships. In one particularly poignant moment, Alex stumbles upon a couple in the midst of their own venomous break-up via an apartment intercom. As with Alex’s break-up, which was conducted via telephone, writer-director Leos Carax visually suggests the physical separation between the once lovers; while both exchanges feature one partner verbally berating the other, suggesting that when communication dies, so does love.
Despite not seeing Mireille (Mireille Perrier), the woman on the other side of the intercom, Alex becomes instantly obsessed with her disembodied voice. Perhaps sensing a certain kinship in being so harshly dumped, Alex finds a way to meet Mireille in person. Functioning as a bitter juxtaposition to the fluffy rom-com flick that the title suggests, Carax has absolutely no intention of allowing Mireille and Alex to enjoy a fairytale ending; instead, Boy Meets Girl finds a way to balance Carax’s sardonic critiques of romance with goofy surrealism.
Certainly not shy to channel his love of Godard’s early films (specifically Breathless and Band of Outsiders), Carax hearkens back to the heyday of the French New Wave with Boy Meets Girl‘s rebellious youthfulness and unabashed love of classic cinema. Armed with a pretentious and precocious panache, Boy Meets Girl is a gorgeously stylized film; but the style is much more than mere superfluous glitter. The oh-so-purposeful movements and framing of Jean-Yves Escoffier’s black and white cinematography carries a hefty significance, carefully illustrating the ecstatic chaos and woozy fallaciousness of Alex’s life. Melodramatic contrivances that are overt enough to make Rainer Werner Fassbinder or Douglas Sirk blush — such as a stunning scene choreographed to David Bowie’s “When I Live My Dream” — further suggest that Alex views his surrounding world as a stage. Alex claims to be an aspiring filmmaker (perhaps he is Carax’s cinematic avatar), even though he has never made a film, which could explain the dramatic lens through which he perceives the world; or, perhaps his propensity for eye drops is altering his vision.
In retrospect, Carax’s feature-length debut from 1984 is a near-brilliant calling card for the rest of his career. It is amazing to see just how many of Carax’s themes and techniques were already fully formed in Boy Meets Girl. For those who loved Holy Motors, this is were Carax’s genius began 28 years prior.