Leos Carax is one of the most interesting and innovative directors of the French and European scene. Although he has directed few movies, his style and his “weltanschauung” (vision of the world) are unique and evocative. His complexity and mysterious charm are evident through his characteristics. For example his own name, “Leos Carax”, is the anagram of his real name (Alex), and Oscar.
Since his early years he was obsessed with the cinema of the French Nouvelle Vague (Godard’s movies are one of his main inspiration). He watched most of the those films whilst at the same time tried to create his own voice, one that was clear, romantic and symbolic. After having made many short movies, such as Strangulation Blues (1980), he wrote and directed his first feature in 1984. The movie named Boy meets girl, is quite autobiographical but at the same time was inspired by some of his favorite directors. The influence of Godard and Truffaut can be seen in the structure of the film and in the dialogue. The movie follows the relationship of an aspiring filmmaker (Denis Lavant), who has just broken up with his girlfriend, a suicidal young woman (Mireille Perrier), who has also been left by her lover. The film, which premiered at the 1984 International Critics’ Week, established Carax’s reputation and exposed him to an international scene.
He started working on a particular visual style, which started to become more evident in his next movie, Mauvais Sang in 1986. In this movie, that consolidated the collaboration with his actor alter-ego Denis Lavant, a mysterious new disease named STBO is killing young people who make love without being emotionally involved. An antidote has been discovered in Paris by a pharmaceutical company who keep it locked away in an office block. A powerful, American woman blackmails two aged crooks, Marc and Hans, into stealing the STBO serum. Marc recruits Alex, a young rebel whose father had worked for him before he had committed suicide. Alex, who wants to move away and start a new life, has a girlfriend, Lise, but ends up falling for Marc’s young lover, Anna. The movie has beautiful sequences such as the scene based on David Bowie’s “Modern Love” song, played at the Berlin International festival. It won the Prix Louis-Delluc, and has been nominated for 3 César awards.
After Mauvais Sang, Carax directed Les Amants du Pont-Neuf in 1991, where Denis Lavant would no doubtfully again be part of the cast. He plays the role of a street performer addicted to sedatives and alcohol. The film is about the relationship between this young character, again named Alex, and Michèle (Juliette Binoche) a painter who after a failed relationship ends up on the street and is suffering from a disease which causes her to slowly loose her sight. Despite problems during the production due to the site chosen by Carax (Pont Neuf) and the huge expenses, the movie was a great success and it was premiered out of competition at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. Sequences such as the one of the fireworks, where Alex and Michèle dance, expressing life, joy, desperation, death and every human feelings at the same time, entered into the history of French cinema.
After this movie Carax did not make any more films for another 8 years. He returned with Pola X, a film loosely based on a novel by Melville. It is about a successful young novelist who gets in touch with a woman who claims to be his lost sister, and the two begin a romantic relationship. The film title is an acronym of the French title of the novel, “Pierre ou les ambiguïtés”, plus the Roman numeral “X”, that represents the tenth draft version of the script which was used in the final film. The movie is considered quite experimental, transgressive and is associated with the movement at the beginning of the century, named the New French Extremity.
After Pola X Leos Carax directed some shorts and a project run with two other directors, that ended up in a movie named Tokyo. In this movie Carax directed an episode based on a character named Merde, a weird, gibberish-spewing subterranean creature who comes from the Tokyo sewers, played once more by Denis Lavant and who attacks local people in increasingly brazen and terrifying ways.
Leos Carax’s last project is named Holy Motors which was made in 2012. Presented at Cannes Film Festival the same year, the visionary film was a great critic and public success, and won the Cannes prize of the youth. Starring the amazing Denis Lavant, the movie is about a man named Mr. Oscar, an actor who inhabits several roles, but with no apparent cameras filming his performances. It is thought provoking that the name of the protagonist is the one chosen by the director to create his artistic name. The movie is a strange black comedy intertwined with kaleidoscopic, imaginative and bizarre characteristics. It epitomises the work of the creative, private and wonderful artist that is Leos Carax, a romantic, brilliant and disturbing mind in the contemporary French art scene.