Mauvais Sang (1986)
Directed and written by Leos Carax
Produced by Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz, Alain Dahan
Starring Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche, Michel Piccoli, Hans Meyer, Julie Delpy, Carroll Brooks
Verbally and visually, Carax’s sophomore feature film is among the most beautiful yet produced, a tragic masterwork comprehending the auteur’s conceptions of impassioned folly personified by a brilliant cast and exquisite composition conveyed via Jean-Yves Escoffier’s photography of supreme resolution and bursting chromatic vibrancy. Exorbitantly indebted to a crime boss (Brooks), a career criminal reduced to recreance (Piccoli) and a natty former physician (Meyer) contrive to filch from the French branch of an American pharmaceutical multinational their culture of a lethal virus afflicting loveless coital partners with debilitating symptoms akin to those of AIDS, so to sell it to a rival firm. To circumvent the target corporation’s security measures, they enlist the abetment of a late accomplice’s son (Lavant), an alacritously adroit conman who exploits this engagement to desert his devoted dulcinea (Delpy), only to stumble into true love with his lesser employer’s lovely, kindly girlfriend (Binoche, as much a jewel of fragile pulchritude in her youth as she’s remained in middle age). This premise constitutes the plot’s nigh-entirety, but that vaccinal culture’s a mere MacGuffin of thematic accordance impelling characters yet never diverting Carax’s audience from so many crucial cesuras of ardent silence portending grief, disconcertion and adoration too infrequently depicted in cinema. Lavant’s withy, vital yet crude physicality artfully belies his recidivist’s romantic heart, betrayed by stirring soliloquies and the music of Prokofiev, Britten, Bowie and Chaplin to signify inexpressibly perfervid amatory swells. Not a frame of this picture isn’t gorgeously shot to beautify its localities and plurality of slickly executed devices: staggering smash cuts, decelerated and accelerated shots, momentary morsels of reverse footage, focal variance, an aerial stunt as flurrying as any from a Bond flick, and striking close-ups of shoelaces, tissues, telephones, elevator numerals, nimbly shuffled playing cards and every expressive physiognomy of its photogenic players. Curiously, many of of Carax’s early exponents derided and dismissed this love letter to the evanescent New Wave as a glossy pastiche of those most experimental styles prosecuted by its ornaments during that summit, disregarding that Godard’s contemporaneous output hadn’t a smidgen of the ambition evinced here. Nathless, Carax tantalizes eyes and emotions only to emphasize the fruitless fervor of unrequited love, caprices of which illustrate how those most indomitable obstacles crumble before obstinacy, terror neutralizes affection, inhibition relents before infatuation, and all probity is voided by these passions.
Mauvais Sang (1986)