Brief Encounters

Wan winners and beautiful losers

Carax's first feature, Boy Meets Girl (1984), is a heart-stopping fever dream in black and white inspired by Godard and Vigo, in which a melancholic longing for cinematic things past rustles even the film's quieter delights — lonely tap dancing, an astronaut sighing at the moon — like the gentlest mistral. Carax was 24 when he made the film, and after it premiered to great success at Cannes he found himself anointed a Next Wave hero, an honor that seemed as much curse as benediction. Three years later, he directed Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood), a lovely romantic ramble with Juliette Binoche, Michel Piccoli, a very young Julie Delpy and Carax's thugish alter ego, Denis Lavant, that is compromised only, and only slightly, by its unwieldy AIDS metaphor. Since then he's made two features: Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) and Pola X (1999).

A mad, gorgeous epic about a homeless fire-breather (Lavant) and the near-blind artist (Binoche) with whom he falls in love, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf comes as close to representing the feeling of falling in love, the sheer recklessness, even desperation, of passion, as I've ever seen on screen. Given that the love story is finally as much about cinema as two stubbornly imperfect human beings (Carax delights in every scrape and smear of mud defacing his stars), it's no great surprise that the film was alternately hailed and damned by critics, and took nearly a decade to find an American release. The shabby disregard for the film in this country — where many critics seemed too busy lamenting the death of cinema to notice how furiously Carax was pumping life into it — was complemented by Miramax's clunky, vengefully un-poetic title, Lovers on the Bridge, a translation as pedestrian as the film is not. Due to open theatrically in several weeks, Pola X will be shown with the rest of the director's features in a brief retrospective at the American Cinematheque, where the screen is just big enough to hold Carax's exuberance. The director, who puts on almost as good a show in person, is promised to be in attendance.

REMEMBER THE TITANS | Directed by BOAZ YAKIN | Written by GREGORY ALLEN HOWARD | Produced by JERRY BRUCKHEIMER and CHAD OMAN | Released by Walt Disney Pictures | Citywide

GIRLFIGHT | Directed and written by KARYN KUSAMA | Produced by SARAH GREEN, MARTHA GRIFFIN and MAGGIE RENZI | Released by Sony Screen Gems | At AMC Century City, Landmark NuWilshire, Sunset 5 BEST IN SHOW | Directed by CHRISTOPHER GUEST | Written by GUEST and EUGENE LEVY | Produced by KAREN MURPHY | Released by Warner Bros. Pictures | At Sunset 5 and Cineplex Odeon Broadway LEOS CARAX IN PERSON | At the AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE AT THE EGYPTIAN THEATER, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. | September 30–October 1

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