Saturday, June 07, 2014
Written and directed by Leos Carax, Mauvais Sang (The Night is Young) is the story of a young man who is asked by two aging thieves to steal a serum for an American crime boss as the young man falls one of the thieves‘ young lover. Set in a futuristic world where young people who make love without any emotions are being killed in a strange epidemic forcing a young man to do something to survive only to fall in love. Starring Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche, Hans Meyer, Julie Delpy, Carroll Brooks, Hugo Pratt, Mireille Perrier, and Michel Piccoli. Mauvais Sang is a tremendously stylish yet whimsical film from Leos Carax.
In a world that is troubled by an epidemic where young people start to die due sex without emotions, two criminals ask a young man to help steal a serum that will stop this epidemic in order to pay off a debt to an American woman who asks for their help. Yet, things become complicated with the young criminal Alex (Denis Lavant) falls for one of the thieves’ young lover in Anna (Juliette Binoche) who is also part of the caper as she dealing with depression. It’s a film that bends all sorts of genre where writer/director Leos Carax throws away the rule book about what can be told in a crime film as he infuses a lot of elements of sci-fi, romance, and silent comedy into the mix. Notably as it’s about a young man wanting to start a life of his own after the death of his estranged father as he is offered that opportunity. Yet, he is forced to make sacrifices as he leaves his young girlfriend Lise (Julie Delpy) while waiting for the job to happen.
The film’s screenplay has a very loose structure with a lot of stylish dialogue that plays into Alex’s desire for a new life while he helps out Marc (Michel Piccoli) and Hans (Hans Meyer) in retrieving the serum though there are complications as the two men are old and one of them is ill. This forces Alex to spend much of his time with Anna as she is often very melancholic and cries for no reason as Alex would try to cheer her up. Yet, there is confusion as Anna likes Alex but remains devoted to Marc while Alex still thinks about Lise despite the fact that he let a friend of his be with her. That would eventually complicate things when the date of the heist emerges as emotions start to run high as does the stakes.
Carax’s direction is definitely stylish not just in the world that he creates where it’s set in a not-too-distant futuristic world of Paris. Especially as the epidemic that is used for the film serves as an allegory of sorts for the AIDS virus at the time as Carax goes for something that is a bit of a social commentary but also infuses it with ideas that could be set in the future as it relates to sex without emotions. Carax does create some shots that are quite simple and to the point as far as the drama plays out yet there’s also moments where he does aim for a sense of style in the way he places the camera for some of the compositions as well as aim for something that harkens back to all sorts of styles in cinema. Some of which involves silent film scenes where Alex would often do things as if he was a character in a silent movie while the romantic moments between Alex and Anna recall aspects of the French New Wave.
The direction also includes some stylish shots that play into the film’s unconventional presentation such as Alex running around the streets of Paris to David Bowie’s Modern Love as Carax would use a tracking dolly shot to capture Alex’s run through the streets of Paris. There’s also scenes where it is very playful and full of style where it adds to this world that feels very offbeat and almost surreal at times. Especially in the scene where Alex would steal the serum as it has elements of sci-fi but also suspense while its climax would be another ode to the French New Wave films of the 1960s. Overall, Carax crafts a very odd yet exhilarating film about a young man trying to start a new life for himself by becoming a criminal.
Cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier does fantastic work with the film‘s cinematography where even though it doesn‘t have a lot of color in its scenery, there are moments where he allows some of the costumes and such to shine while also using some black-and-white footage to be used for stylistic reasons. Editor Nelly Quettier does brilliant work with the editing by emphasizing largely on style with jump-cuts and unconventional frame-speeds to play with its action and drama. Production designers Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, and Michel Vandestien, with set decorator Bernard Leonard, do amazing work with the set pieces from the base that Marc and Hans stay at to plan the heist to some of the exteriors of the buildings where it adds a dream-like feel to the film.
Costume designers Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, and Robert Nardone do excellent work with the costumes from the red sweater and blue robe that Anna wears to the yellow leather jacket that Alex wears as it adds to the film‘s unique look. The sound work of Claude Hivernon, Harrik Maury, Henri Morelle, and Joel Riant is superb for some of the sound effects that is created from the way Alex‘s motorcycle sounds to the way some of the objects sound to play into the action and suspense. The film’s wonderful music soundtrack consists of classical pieces by Sergei Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten as well as a score piece from Charles Chaplin and songs by Serge Raggiani and David Bowie as the classical pieces serves as dramatic cues while the Chaplin piece from Limelight is played in a very dazzling sequence where Alex encounters a young mother and her child.
The casting by Helene Bernardin is great for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small performances from Mireille Perrier as the young mother Alex encounters, Serge Reggiani as Marc and Hans’ friend Charlie, Jerome Zucca as Alex’s friend Thomas, Leos Carax as a peeping tom, Hugo Pratt as the American boss’ muscle Boris, and Carroll Brooks as the American boss who orders Marc and Hans to steal the serum so they can clear their debt. Hans Meyer is excellent as Hans as a criminal who is also a doctor and a man of style as he teaches Alex how to present himself as a criminal. Julie Delpy is amazing as Lise as Alex’s young girlfriend who is in love with him despite her naiveté as she tries to communicate with him while becoming a crucial part of the heist.
Michel Piccoli is brilliant as Marc as an old friend of Alex’s dad who asks Alex for help while dealing with his own issues as an old man as well as the debt that looms over his head. Juliette Binoche is fantastic as Anna as Marc’s young yet melancholic lover who only takes up the job to support Marc while being charmed by Alex as it’s a role that has Binoche be funny as well as maternal. Finally, there’s Denis Lavant in a remarkable performance as Alex as this young criminal who is known for his quick hands as he joins the heist in order to start a new life while dealing with what is at stake as he is also torn for his love for both Anna and Lise as it’s Lavant in one of his best roles to date.
Mauvais Sang is an incredible film from Leos Carax that features outstanding performances from Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche, Michel Piccoli, and Julie Delpy. The film is definitely one of Carax’s finest films in terms of blending all sorts of genre and make it something unique while also being a tribute to cinema itself. In the end, Mauvais Sang is a phenomenal film from Leos Carax.
Leos Carax Films: Boy Meets Girl - Lovers on the Bridge - Pola X - Tokyo!-Merde - Holy Motors - The Auteurs #36: Leos Carax
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