Friday, March 15, 2013

MAUVAIS SANG (1986) - Leos Carax

Leos Carax's second feature, Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood, aka The Night is Young), doubles down on the Denis Lavant, again playing a ne'er-do-well petty criminal, again named Alex, again falling for a raven-haired kewpie doll (Juliette Binoche) who is pledged to another man. This time, that man is Michel Piccoli, a low-level gangster and friend of Alex's recently deceased father, who is in debt to an elderly American businesswoman known simply as "The American." Piccoli plans to use Alex's five-finger discount skills to lift a rare laboratory serum to an AIDS-like disease (STBO) which preys on lovers who make love without passion. Meanwhile, Alex bides his time wooing Piccoli's girl with his ventriloquism skills and shaving cream tickle-fights.

Plot's kind of scant and irrelevant here. As a McGuffin, STBO is a soggy Egg McMuffin. As usual, Carax is more interested in the particulars of love-- its highs, its lows, its pains, its pleasures-- than in telling a ripping yarn. Unlike Boy Meets Girl, those particulars are rendered in bright foreground colors here, often in tight close-ups, often against monochromatic backdrops. An '80s music video vibe dominates the proceedings. When Lavant suddenly bursts into a Footloose-like sprint to David Bowie's "Modern Love," you barely flinch. That's the kind of world we're in. "I want my...I want my...I want my Les MTV."

There are other pleasures to found amid all the po-mo posturing. There's a nifty skydiving sequence. Several glimpses of a very young Julie Delpy. We're mostly locked into a typical gangster/love story, locked into sound stages for the duration. It must have gotten hot in there. As witnessed below, neither Lavant or Piccoli could seem to keep on their shirts.

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