WHO is he?
French film director, actor and writer who has made five feature films and half a dozen short films since the early eighties. One of the most important French filmmakers after the French New Wave, the best of Carax’s cinema centres on disoriented Parisian youth living a marginal existence in France under the François Mitterrand regime.
WHAT are his films about?
The failure of the student-worker revolts of 1968 led to a nationwide disillusionment with idealist politics that, in the arts and especially in cinema, resulted in a rupture with the past. The characters in Carax’s films embody this disenchantment completely. They are a far cry from the radical youth one saw in the films of the 60s and 70s. Not aligning themselves to any political, philosophical or social belief, Carax’s vagrant young ones, in their very non-alignment, form a counterculture of their own. They are bundles of aggression, amorous passion and energy burning themselves out without any end in mind.
Despite the stark departure they take from the cinema of the French New Wave, Carax’s films nevertheless owe a lot to the stylistic flamboyance of their predecessors, notably in their eccentric compositions, youthful camerawork, pop-music heavy soundtrack and staccato editing patterns. Carax’s work has sometimes been classified under the label Cinema of Look, along with that of Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix, to designate a slick style of filmmaking that was driven more by the look than the narrative text.
WHY is he of interest?
Carax’s cinema evidences a deep knowledge of the history of cinema, its roots and its functions. It is a highly physical cinema that studies the magnificent bodies of its actors (primarily, the director’s muse Denis Lavant’s) through the eyes of an athlete, a scientist and an artist in an attempt to recapture some of the magic that the pioneers of the filmic medium might have experienced, when they first saw a horse run, a lady dance or an acrobat perform on screen.
WHERE to discover him?
The Lovers On The Bridge (1991), perhaps more than any other film, summarises the director’s work and revolves around a pair of homeless youth, who live on the titular Parisian bridge that is under construction. Carax’s film is unnerving yet celebratory, critical yet humorous and, like all of the director’s movies, is perpetually in a rich conversation with all of film history, especially silent cinema.