With the release of Mauvais Sang (oddly named The Night is Young for English speaking audiences), Leos Carax confirmed his place as one of France’s most inventive and creative young directors, and a leading light in the Cinema du look movement. It’s beautifully inventive and creative, moving away from the imitation of Boy Meets Girl towards innovation and inspiration. Much of the output of Jeunet and Caro bares clear traces of his earlier work.
The American (Carroll Brooks) has arrived in town and she’s after her money. When stress proves too much for the father, Marc (Michel Piccoli) and Hans (Hans Meyer) enlist the son, Alex (Denis Lavant) to pull off a job to pay off their debts. A new virus (STBO) is affecting young couples who make love without being in love, and they plan to steal the serum. Alex flees his girlfriend Lise (Julie Delpy) in order to leave France to make a new life for himself, only to end up falling in love with Marc’s young lover Anna (Juliette Binoche). However, things don’t exactly go to plan.
Monochrome backdrops contrast sharply against bright foregrounds, and vice-versa, as Carax adds a sci-fi feel sculptured in an often cartoonish fashion. Pale bodies look stifled against in the palpable heat, as the star studded cast bask in existentialist glory. There are moments of magic: when Alex tries to make Anna laugh, the shaving foam fight and the car boxing; the reliving of lost childhoods perhaps. The highlight, and one of the greatest sequences in modern cinema, is when Alex rampages down the street to David Bowie’s Modern Love; you’ll find yourself watching it over and over again.
The Night is Young is a remarkable piece of film making, flitting through genres with inventive glee. It’s bold, both in style and content; Carax is prepared to play with his audience and revel in ambiguity.
The Night is Young is released by Artificial Eye on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday.