Boy Meets Girl (France, 1984):

The title's plaintive pitch, the yearning for the romantic bliss of the simplest of narrative arcs, is central to Leos Carax's swooning debut -- the rapture of cinema is the theme, yet celluloid seems barely sufficient to encase his fervent instability. Denis Lavant is the pug anti-hero and Carax stand-in, spastic and acrobatic, only one of the lost souls wandering the humid, inky-black Parisian night, waiting for privileged moments: a smoothing couple on display set to David Bowie's "When I Live My Dream," while somewhere forlorn gamine Mireille Perrier dances by herself, collapsing exhausted on a sofa. Her skipping is superimposed over a nightly prowl for Carax's childlike artifice (i.e., a starry vista painted on a wall, like an infant's room), along with his longing for the vanished purity of silent film -- a shattered phone-booth pane evokes an iridescent iris, just as the host of a poseur-party can suddenly launch a monologue on the Borzagian telepathic bond she shared with her brother. At the same party, Lavant bumps into an aged survivor of silent-days who expounds (via pantomime) on tongue-tied modern youth, though it is in the kitchen that Boy meets Girl, with Lavant and Perrier stretching their few moments together in a soul-linking interlude, doomed and eternal. "My heart is proud of its pain," for Carax it could not possibly be any other way -- New Wave posing, punk abstraction and adolescent morbidity-ecstasy fuse in the camera's rapturous gaze, a timeline for the protagonist's life scrawled on a wall behind a frame ("first murder attempt: 5/25/83") and for the entire history of cinema in a shot of Perrier's dark eyes, housing past (Falconetti, Seberg, Karina), and future (Binoche). A prodigiously inventive work, a quietly quaking reverie, empty cafés stocked with pinball machines, poetic train rides, and the promise of an earthbound world transformed by romance. Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier. With Carroll Brooks, Maïté Nahyr, and Christian Cloarec. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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