Monday, December 2, 2013

Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang

One of Jean Cocteau’s most famous films was Le sang d'un poete. Cocteau makes a posthumous appearance in Leos Carax’s l986 Mauvais sang currently being revived at Film Forum. One of Carax’s characters looks at the back of a white haired man and says that’s Cocteau only to be informed that the famed playwright, poet and director is dead. But actually the kind of poetic cinema Cocteau advocated is alive and kicking in Mauvais Sang which is literally about blood. The movie could have referenced another work with blood in the title, De sang- froid, In Cold Blood, to the extent that it’s about both murderers (the death of the youthful gangster in the end recalls the poetic ending of Godard’s Au Bout du Soffle) and blood itself. However it must be said that for all its hot blood, Carax maintains a cool esthetic distance or heartlessness throughout. The plot concerns a retrovirus, STBO, that is created by people who “make love without love.” This is literally the bad blood of the film’s title and the blood imagery continues as Anna (Juliette Binoche), one of the film molls (the other is played by Julie Delpy) describes herself as not being able to stop crying and suffering from hemophiliac tears. Carax creates little campuses of imagery. When Alex (Denis Levant) meets with Marc (Michel Piccoli) and his other crony Hans (Hans Meyer) they remove their shirts in an almost viral way, as if they’d contracted a new ailment, lighting up cigarettes bare chested from then on. Alex, a strange and silent kid who his parents named the Chatterbox, has grown up to be a ventriloquist. You can parse the double entendres and metaphors that run through the film the way you’d analyze a poem. The work of another renowned avant-gardist,  David Bowie, “Modern Love” is part of the soundtrack.

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