Monday, April 5, 2010

1984: Boy Meets Girl (Leos Carax)

1984: Boy Meets Girl (Leos Carax)
The two toughest years for me to choose in this countdown were 1984 and 1986.  I simply have too many films from each year that I absolutely love.  And although I can't argue that the Carax film is better than the entries from Rohmer, Leone, Wenders, or Jarmusch, it's the film that's had the most profound effect on me. 

Born Alexander Oscar Dupont, Leos Carax is an anagram of his first and middle names.  Remove the first two letters, and you see Oscar. Take the first two letters of the first name and the last two letters of the last name, unscramble them, and you have Alex.  The import of all this, not much, other than there's a playfulness to Carax's name that carries through to his work.      

Carax was only 23 when he made Boy Meets Girl, and it shows.  It's the kind of film that makes us realize how seldom the cinema gives us the opportunity to experience the world of this young of a man.  It's simply too difficult to make films and so it usually takes someone a good bit older to get a feature on screen.  Already with the proliferation of digital tools, we're seeing this change a little.  Carax's vulnerability makes us want to see more of it.  

In my post on Pierrot le fou (Godard is clearly Carax's greatest influence), I mentioned that it was one of the most personal films I had ever seen.  Carax takes it to another level in his debut.  There's a deep nakedness to the way that Carax uses voiceover, and there's never any doubt that the film is anything more than a thinly disguised tale of Carax's world, thoughts, angst, romantic longings and frustrations.  

But Carax's film is not just a narcissistic exercise.  He proves here that he was on his way to becoming one of the most formally dazzling filmmakers in the world.  Just look at the beauty, the lyricism, the expressiveness of the way he uses sound and image.  The difficulties of The Lovers on the Bridge scarred him in a way where he might never recover, and the death of his extraordinary cameraman, Jean-Yves Escoffier, certainly hasn't helped him.

Carax's impact?  Live your passion like he does here.  Be bold, be honest, be playful.  If I were a cinephile in 1984 and saw this film, I would have said that the French New Wave is alive and well and just spawned its next great filmmaker.  I miss Leos Carax and sure hope we'll get at least one more great confession from him before it's all said and done.  If not, at least I have Boy Meets Girl.

Other contenders for 1984: I still have some things to see from this year.  They include: John Cassavetes' Love Streams, Juzo Itami's The Funeral, Jonathan Demme's Swing Shift, Alan Rudolph's Choose Me, Pedro Almodovar's What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields, Michael Radford's 1984, and John Huston's Under the Volcano.  I need to revisit Martin Brest's Beverly Hills Cop and Norman Jewison's A Soldier's Story as it's been too long since I've seen either of them to know where they'd place on this list.  From this year, I really like Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose.  I love Eric Rohmer's Full Moon in Paris, Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in America, Brian De Palma's Body Doubleand Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.  And my closest runner-up is Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise.

3/25/12 I watched Rob Epstein's The Times of Harvey Milk.  Milk's story is a great one, and I loved getting this other perspective, after seeing the Van Sant narrative portrait of his life.  Perhaps a few too many interviews keep it from being a truly great doc but a very enjoyable watch all the same.  

8/21/16 I watched Alex Cox's Repo Man.  It is the first time I have seen this highly talked about cult film.  The atmosphere is so odd and if I can commend Cox for anything it is for sustaining this tone and off-kilter feeling throughout.  But it is all quite cold and I found it very difficult to connect to any of the characters or the proceedings.  
4/1/17 I watched Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap.  Actually the first time I've ever seen in its entirety.  It's not really my type of thing but it is clever and Guest and McKean deliver.

5/26/18 I watched John Cassavetes' Love Streams.  I'll go ahead and say it, Cassavetes continues to be a tough filmmaker for me.  He may be edgy and honest but I also find his films, for the most part, a trudge, depraved and dank like being in a windowless bar that I really don't care to hang out in for very long.  The editing is interesting as are some of the free-flowing dream sequences but I never fully connected and remain on the sidelines with the majority of Cassavetes' works.

7/1/18 I watched Alan Rudolph's Choose Me.  Reminiscent somewhat of Coppola's One from the Heart, Scorsese's New York, New York or even Walsh's The Man I Love, it is unique and admirably consistent in its stylistic approach.  Unfortunately, that approach is about pushing the artificial nature of things - locations, emotions, non-diegetic music - in a way that has never been a real interest of mine.  

11/23/18 I watched Frederick Wiseman's The Store.  It is another pure look at a subject by Wiseman, even if it does not reach the heights of some of his best work.   
11/24/21 I watched Raoul Ruiz's Manuel on the Island of Wonders.  One of Rosenbaum's top 100 is a film that displays Ruiz's talent for capturing the world through the eyes of a child.  It shows the world in its many possibilities, its beauty and its fears.  Interpretation is a challenge but it is a film I plan to revisit again to approach it with greater clarity.
12/28/21 I watched Blake Edwards' Micki & Maude.  Even if Edwards' energy is a bit broader and manic for my tastes, he does an excellent job keeping this mad romp entertaining.
1/2/22 I watched Abbas Kiarostami's First Graders.  Has there ever been a filmmaker with more skill for directing young boys?  It is unlikely given the amount of experience Kiarostami gained through all of his narrative and documentary work with the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults.  A longer work with a few sublime moments such as the father picking his first grader who has polio up from school.    
1/29/22 I watched Joe Dante's Gremlins.  It's fun and has some interesting things to say about America's immaturity and recklessness as a world superpower.  But the subtext is also more fun to think about or follow than the story itself.
2/15/22 I watched Jerzy Skolimowski's Success Is the Best Revenge.  It's the fourth of Skolimowski's films I have seen in the last year and the one that involved me the least.  As usual, his ability to use the camera in a way that illustrates the power of cinematic movement and space is masterful but the storytelling is so dissonant and disjointed that I became frustrated rather than taken in.  
2/27/22 I watched Andrew Horn's Doomed Love.  An incredibly unique American independent film that, simply watching it, seems to have had a massive influence on Hal Hartley and his hyper-mannered style.  I cannot recall a filmmaker achieving a more consistent lyrical quality in his or her work using less means than Horn employs here - painted sets, painted props, a handful of actors and not a single shot of the outside world.  
11/17/22 I watched Atom Egoyan's Next of Kin.  I love seeing first features of filmmakers I would go on to like and admire.  Egoyan proves himself adept at personal, unique filmmaking - strong with his actors and gifted in placing the viewer in situations of sustained discomfort.  Perhaps not fully formed or felt but I'm glad to see where Egoyan started.
1/7/23 I watched Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense.  One of these films I thought I had seen until I watched it again.  The real star is Byrne who you can't take your eyes off of.  And if the measure of a good concert film, and I haven't seen many concert films in general, is if it entertains you while giving you a better sense of what the band looks and feels like then Stop Making Sense is hugely successful. 


  1. Jeffrey, I have seen your choice and will have to search it out. My own choice was "Amadeus" of Forman's two best films. A close second is Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America."
    #1 Amadeus


    Once Upon a Time in America
    A Soldier’s Story
    Blood Simple
    Beverly Hills Cop
    Broadway Danny Rose
    The Killing Fields
    Stranger Than Paradise

  2. John, great to hear from you! I'll be curious to know how this one strikes you.

    I definitely like AMADEUS although just a little less than the others I mentioned. And, BLOOD SIMPLE I like, as well.

    Thanks, John! Always great to have you here.

  3. Jeffrey,
    I also like this film very much, but I must say I enjoy Mauvais Sang a bit more. I feel that it really captures exactly what you are talking about when you mention Carax "becoming one of the most formally dazzling filmmakers in the world". The ending sequence of Boy Meets Girl certainly is already pointing in this dirction. Also, the voiceover bit about the "premiere tentative de meurtre" is fantastic.

    Nice post on a great film!

  4. Haven't seen this one, Jeffrey, but I will investigate further...

    I didn't realize it until I did my own annual countdown, but 1984 is a pretty strong year. My top 5 would be:

    1. Once Upon a Time in America (Leone) - So great, and that ending when the two childhood friends come face-to-face is so sad.
    2. Amadeus (Forman) - So good I almost feeling guilty having it as the top spot in a year.
    3. Broadway Danny Rose (Allen) - An overlooked Woody gem... I still love the "I feel like in North Vietnam" line when they're on the run. Something about the delivery and timing of it that always makes me laugh.
    4. Blood Simple (Coens)
    5. Paris, Texas (Wenders)

  5. Thanks, Peter! I love MAUVAIS SANG, too. But I think I've always liked this one just a little more. Where SANG has genre elements, this one just feels like a full-fledged personal spewing.

    So glad to see the Carax love though. It seems that he's someone that really struggles.

    Always great to hear from you, Peter! Thanks.

  6. Dave, I totally agree! This is an exceptional year and 1986 seems even stronger in my book.

    I absolutely share your love for the Leone. It's an incredible achievement.

    Thanks, Dave. Always awesome having you here!

  7. My Own #1 Film of 1984:

    Once Upon A Time in America (Leone, USA)


    Amadeus (Foreman, USA)
    Carmen (Rosi, Spain/France)
    Heimat (Reitz, West Germany)
    La Femme Publique (Zulawski, France)
    Colonel Redl (Szabo, Hungary)
    Blood Simple (Coens, USA)
    Stop Making Sense (Demme, USA)
    Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch, USA)
    Broadway Danny Rose (Allen, USA)

    Jeffrey this is brilliant stuff here:

    "But Carax's film is not just a narcissistic exercise. He proves here that he was on his way to becoming one of the most formally dazzling filmmakers in the world. Just look at the beauty, the lyricism, the expressiveness of the way he uses sound and image...." --and this is yet another bold, original and personal choice. I never held the film in such high esteem, but I'm motivated now to look at it again.

  8. Sam, thanks so much for the incredibly kind words! I admit that this film, almost more than any of my other choices, is certainly not for everyone. It can be downright frustrating at times. But I'm in awe of how naked Carax was able to be here and how masterful he already was at using so many of cinema's different possibilities.

    Thanks, Sam. Always such a treat having you here!

  9. Carax is incredible...I will never forget getting to see LOVERS ON THE PONT NEUF on the big screen when it was re-released. I need to revisit this one as it is only his collaborations with Binoche that I have seen multiple times.

  10. Jeremy, I also think that Carax is incredible. Yes, I'd love to hear how this one treats you when you revisit it. It's probably my favorite of all his films. But I love MAUVAIS SANG, too!

    Thanks, Jeremy. Always awesome hearing from you!

  11. Nice insights on the initial Carax. Personally, I prefer the broader ambitions of MAUVAIS SANG (along with the extra dish of Escoffier's color work!) but agree that BMG is more personal and less cluttered. I think you've tapped into something interesting when you note that BMG is the rare first work where the artist has poured himself into it, but somehow managed to achieve, and even progress, at a formal level. It's as if ASTRAL WEEKS represented the first time Morrison stepped into a recording studio!

    The other amazing thing about Carax (at least the first two, arguably three) is how plainly he bears his influences, but also manages to move past them. For instance, 400 BLOWS is an essential basis for BMG but rather than allowing the Truffaut to hover constantly, Carax simply moves beyond it. The movie is acknowledged but never revered. Carax was always unafraid to get out from under his influences, which is probably the mark of a serious artist.

  12. Wow, Andrew, what an excellent post! I love so much that you say, but your final sentence is a real zinger:

    "Carax was always unafraid to get out from under his influences, which is probably the mark of a serious artist."

    I also love the correlations you make between BMG and 400 BLOWS and ASTRAL WEEKS. Great addition to this post. Thanks, Andrew!