A filmmaker with a romantic's love for the cinema, French writer-director Léos Carax, a private person, spent periods of his childhood and adolescence refusing to speak. It was during this time that he discovered the wonders of the cinematheque and silent movies. The films he watched shaped his work, and perhaps influenced his romantic expectations. Though his work is not well known to American audiences, Carax has established himself in contemporary French cinema as a major figure with a distinctive vision.
His first attempt at filmmaking was, appropriately, an act of passion. He had a crush on a girl and told her he had written a part for her, although no script existed. He commandeered a 16mm camera and began shooting. His leading lady later dropped out of the project due to a requisite nude scene, and he eventually lost interest in the film. After writing contributions for Cahiers du cinéma and making another short work, he made his bold feature debut at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. Carax was a mere 24 years old, and the film was Boy Meets Girl--a title that could just as easily apply to any of his subsequent works. His style owed much to Jean-Luc Godard, for whom he acted in King Lear (1987), and his work seemed more reflective of the 1960s than the era in which it was created. Boy Meets Girl possessed a grainy black-and-white look, but Carax's follow-up, Bad Blood (Mauvais Sang), glowed with primary colors amid expressionist shadows. With his first two films, the director established a reputation and a following in France for his visual flair, though neither film ever received U.S. distribution.
It was with The Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf), however, that Carax's promise turned to infamy. The three-year production called for the expensive construction in southern France of a full-sized model of the Pont-Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris. The film also suffered major budget overruns and scheduling delays before premiering in 1992 to divided audiences. Some fell head-over-heels in love with it, while others balked at its fantastic narrative. Seven years later, the film was released in the United States to charmed reviews. His first three films came to be known as the "Alex trilogy," starring Denis Lavant as an alter ego of sorts to the director (whose birth name was Alexander Dupont) and costarring women with whom the director was romantically involved. During the mid-1990s, Carax disappeared from the film world and left audiences anticipating his next work. He finally reemerged at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival with Pola X. Due to the film's explicit sexual content, rendered with exquisite images, and obsessive subject of l'amour fou, his reputation as French film's enfant terrible was reconfirmed.
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