Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1984: Boy Meets Girl (Leos Carax)
The two toughest years for me to choose in this countdown were 1984 and 1986. I simply have too many films from each year that I absolutely love. And, although I can’t argue that this Carax film is better than the entries from Rohmer, Leone, Wenders or Jarmusch, it’s the film that’s had the most profound effect on me.
Born Alexandre Oscar Dupont, Leos Carax is an anagram of his first and middle names. Remove the first two letters, and you see Oscar. Take the first two letters of the first name and the last two letters of the last name, unscramble them, and you have Alex. The import of all this: Not much. But it does indicate that there’s a playfulness to Carax’s name that carries through to his work.
Carax was only 23 when he made Boy Meets Girl, and it shows. It’s the kind of film that makes us realize how seldom cinema gives us the opportunity to experience the world of this young a man. It’s simply so difficult to make films that it usually takes someone a good bit older to get a feature on screen. Already, with the proliferation of digital tools, we’re seeing this change a little. Carax’s youthful vulnerability makes us want to see more of it.
In my post on Pierrot le fou (Godard is clearly Carax’s greatest influence), I mentioned that it was one of the most personal films I had ever seen. Carax takes it to another level in his debut. There’s a deep nakedness to the way that Carax uses voiceover, and there’s never any doubt that the film is anything more than a thinly disguised tale of Carax’s world, thoughts, angst and romantic longings and frustrations.
But Carax’s film is not just a narcissistic exercise. He proves here that he was on his way to becoming one of the most formally dazzling moviemakers in the world. Just look at the beauty, the lyricism, his expressive use of sound and image. The difficulties of his 1991 film The Lovers on the Bridge scarred him in a way that he might never recover from, and the death of his extraordinary cameraman, Jean-Yves Escoffier, certainly hasn’t helped.
Carax’s impact? Live your passion like he does here. Be bold, be honest, be playful. If I were a cinephile in 1984, and I saw this film, I would have said that the French New Wave is alive and well and had just spawned its next great moviemaker. I miss Leos Carax, and I sure hope we’ll get at least one more great confession from him before it’s all said and done. If not, at least we have Boy Meets Girl.
What moviemakers can learn: The French, particularly Godard, Truffaut and Carax, are the most skillful moviemakers ever in terms of making voiceover personal and intimate. Watch Pierrot le fou, Shoot the Piano Player and Boy Meets Girl and focus on the voiceover.
Other contenders for 1984: I still have some things to see from this year. These include: John Cassavetes’ Love Streams, Jûzô Itami’s The Funeral (Ososhiki) and John Huston’s Under the Volcano. I need to revisit Martin Brest’s Beverly Hills Cop and Norman Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story, as it’s been too long since I’ve seen either of them to know where they’d place on this list. From this year, I really like Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose. I love Eric Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris (Les nuits de la pleine lune), Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, Brian De Palma’s Body Double and Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. And my closest runner-up is Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.