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   This movie has an online cover Mauvais Sang (1986)
Directed By: Leos Carax


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Last Viewed:2002.11.10
Last Reviewed:2002.11.10

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Funny. I write this review at the end of a weekend where i saw almost back to back 2 of my formative films. On top of that, both are 1986 movies. Funny! After "Down By Law", comes another favorite of mine, "Mauvais Sang".

"Mauvais Sang" however is in a league of its own. This is as close to perfection as a film can get to in my book. It is a visionary piece of work from a 26 year old named Leos Carax. Some people call him the French Kubrik. Leos is fanatically meticulous about every single detail, from a camera angle, a light reflection on a distant car, to a stone in the middle of a road. He is maniacal. As a result, many of his films have run his producers mad, or bancrupt. The story of how "Les Amants Du Pont Neuf" was made is in itself an amazing tale of film making and the requirements of a mad film maker: he had an entire section of Paris rebuild in the suburbs, at real scale, including the Seine and the Samaritaine, a famous department store on the left bank (if i remember right) because the coty wouldn't let him shoot there. He also posesses a strong lyrical sense about his stories and characters, and uses music fabulously well. Unfortunately, he also shares with Kubrik a lack of prolificism, if that's a proper word.

"Mauvais Sang", like his other masterpiece "Les Amants Du Pont Neuf" summons so many feelings inside me. You can forget "Pola X" which is an interesting but very formal and ultimately empty stylistic exercise, and "Boy Meets Girl" which is a good movie, but too experimental, too much his first movie, to be really enjoyable.

So, let's talk about this one movie here. If you want a study in film techniques this is it. Simply put, this is very much an over the top, let me show you all the cool things film can allow you to do, kind of film. Slow motion, 3rd speed copy, off-frame tricks, color, black and white, silent, with references to Charlie Chaplin and a cult scene involving Bowie's Modern Love. Carax shows his mastery of the medium, and before it can become too cocky, he meshes in compelling characters, with a profound story. It's virtuosity. On top of the deep technical bravura here, Leos brings up all your teenager feelings about love all the way back. Misguided, passionate, absolute, contradicted. All those feelings are muddled all together in a love quartet like rarely seen on screen.

Technically, the film is perfect. Visually it's wonderful, with deep colors, angles, and frames like you have rarely seen. The art direction is very detailed and organic. The cinematography is rich beyong belief, moving from pastel colors to bright hues, to black and white, to cepias with ease. The editing is very modern. You have never seen a love scene cut like an action sequence like this. The music is fantastic throughout the entire movie, the right piece is always at the right moment, and rather than compose new music, Leos uses familiar pieces that already have strong emotional content. Kubrik did that too a lot.

Other than that, it's a beautiful and complex story, exquisitely well written (although, for non French speakers, the details and nuances will be of course lost in the subtittles). The cast is also exceptional with Picoli and Binoche playing great parts here. Also, of course, Dennis Lavant, playing to Leos Carax like Kyle MacLachlan playing to David Lynch: Dennis and Leos look quite alike and have maintained a close professional relationship for a long period of time. I really like Dennis Lavant. His acting is very physical. This is a guy in great physical shape and knowledgeable about every circus and street fair tricks in the book. He can mime, be acrobatic, has incredible gymnastic strength, play with fire etc.... He shows most of those skills here. I regret not seeing him more in important roles. Besides this movie and "Les Amants Du Pont Neuf", where he is quite brilliant too, i am not aware of other movies where he exudes so much talent. If you know one, drop me an email.

"Mauvais Sang" is a great movie, period. Technically perfect, touching emotionally, intellectually challenging, beautiful to look at, great to listen to, beautifully performed. It's a perfect movie. One of my top 5 movies of all times!

- Laurent Hasson