Published Aug 09, 2013When Leos Carax shot Boy Meets Girl, his first feature film, he was in his early 20s. His youthful whimsy and corresponding pretense are as evident as his kinetic and impassioned energy, playing with format and the wealth of cinematic opportunity, having the vocabulary to understand what he was doing, but not the confidence to do so without tugging on the apron strings of his French New Wave influences.
Filmed entirely in black and white, channeling the aesthetic and abstract grass roots self-consciousness of an art film ethos, this simultaneously melodramatic and stylistically liberated work of cosmic connection purports its titular claim, feigning a love story without necessarily fulfilling this promise.
An aspiring filmmaker (Denis Lavant) eventually meets a suicidal failed model (Mireille Perrier) after hearing her through an apartment intercom and seeing her in an embrace—a static, expressionistic moment of reality-adjacent projection—by the Seine. Having recently been dumped himself, his neediness and tendency towards destructive behaviour mirrors her similar tendency towards emotional outburst and self-harm. While he dabbles with violence, externalizing his angst, she holds scissors close to her wrist and rolls her head around aggressively to the Dead Kennedys.
Though this description of two lost souls drawn to each other amidst a nighttime cityscape seems straightforward, Carax deliberately interjects an array of diversions about the nature of aging and maturing. Characters announce their age, citing frustration over their inability to fulfill the goals they set while young, while being juxtaposed or framed with portraiture or mirrors to suggest forced introspection or life as passive, defeatist performance. A chipped cup, discarded casually by the titular boy, is romantically noted as the only true prize possession of a middle-aged woman left to her own psychology as a prisoner of memories.
The lack of literal progression and self-perpetuating angst—even when the boy meets the girl, their impulsiveness and idiosyncrasy acts as an oblique barrier—gives a sense of lyrical artifice, insomuch as the sense of affectation is as strong as the casually indulgent fits of fancy. It's obvious that Carax was trying to impress through referential, parroted behaviour and technique, but there's also a sense of something more; something powerful, emotional and vital.
Boy Meets Girl screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Modern Love: The Films of Leos Carax Retrospective at 6:30pm on August 9th, 2013. (Abilene)