Saturday, September 06, 2008

Boy Meets Girl

A debut feature film, and Carax achieves heights of poetic prowess: light and shadow, duty and love, soul and body, smile and destitution, David Bowie’s song and a couple fighting a bitter trivial battle in a neighbouring apartment, yes all the clash is wrapped up, packaged in the story of self-search, of pain, of love that could never be between two people, victims of uptight, unimaginative, orderly people.

The story is simple: boy meets girl. It’s the same old pain with momentary relief, a flash of teeth of Mireille (Mireille Perrier) that Alex (Denis Lavant) can induce with difficulty, and then the inevitable pathway towards love and doom continues. Lovingly shot in crisp black and white, the film opens with absurd: skis out of the windshield of a car. Nay, even before, there’s that voice, that old voice, which almost reminds me of another very uncanny opening of a totally different kind of film, Mackenna’s Gold, another masterpiece. The film deliberates, thinks, stands on its feet too often, and lets you get sucked into it by this simple contrivance. Not hastily, but slowly, yet not in any order, the camera tracks the life-map of Alex behind the painting, and then today’s scrawl. Again, the father’s phone comes the next morning with a theatrical gravity and which strangely does not look uncalled for in this mockery of all ambitions, mannerisms and achievements compared to love – yes that’s what this film does convey. We have the Einstenian and Armstrongish men, obsessed with themselves, or objects, when something far more beautiful is going on: Alex and Mireille. We have the hostess who says at an arm’s length “Je vous laisse” when Alex is nothing in answer to “Vous êtes qui?” And yet the same hostess treasures a loved one’s cup: is she sitting too long over one memory? Should she have moved away? Is Alex any better for moving from girl to girl, a newer stab in his heart and life-map? Or has Alex finally met Mireille, who even if loin is of the same mauvais sang as Alex, the same dysfunctionality? Or are Alex and Mireille only extensions of the deaf and dumb man and his interpreter: the man has much to say but he cannot speak, the girl has voice but words of the old man since she has to interpret him, not herself? How much do we become extensions of the other when we love, how much should we become, and more importantly can we even determine this? Wouldn’t it be better in that case then to play pinball silently, with the electronic circuits doing all the noises? Occasionally the pinball machine will go wrong, and then we will correct the circuitry; occasionally the sex will go wrong and then we will ask how dry or wet we like it, or change our lover. Isn’t that simpler than love?