Leo Carax’s debut feature, made in 1984 (when Carax was just 24 years old), is a strange love story that seems influenced by the French New Wave but with the surreal sensibilities of Carax added to the mix. As usual, the film stars Denis Lavant as a young guy named Alex who has just been dumped by his girlfriend who has been having an affair with Alex’s best friend. While wondering the streets at night, he passes an apartment block as an unknown man and woman have a fight over an intercom speaker, making it very obvious that their relationship is on the rocks. Alex becomes entranced by the girl on the intercom, whose name turns out to be Mireille, and starts to follow her. Meanwhile we witness Mireille alone in her house and it becomes very apparent that the girl suffers from depression and is suicidal. Alex continues to observe this girl until he finally works his way into a party that Mireille will be attending, giving chance that the two will finally meet.
It is interesting to watch all of Leos Carax’s films within quick succession of each other because it becomes obvious just how similar they are in atmosphere and themes. “Boy Meets Girl” is probably the least plot heavy of the “Alex” trilogy (which is sometimes how Carax’s first three features are described due to Denis Lavant starring as a character named Alex in all of them), with the majority of the film setting a tone or mood until they finally meet. In fact most of the narrative happens in the final twenty minutes. It is set up during the film that Alex puts significance importance on the “first” of things (for example, his first kiss, the first time he stole, etc), so the first meeting between Alex and Mireille is all important and the whole film works towards this moment.
Unlike the latter films, “Boy Meets Girl” separates itself by being shot in black and white and the images created by Jean-Yves Escoffier are glorious. Some of the camera moves, especially in the final scene, echo that of Alfred Hitchcock’s work. As I mentioned, there are a lot of similar moments in “Boy Meets Girl” with other Carax films. The heat wave that is so prevalent in “Mauvais Sang” appears again in “Boy Meets Girl” and visually, the large glass window at the front of Mireille’s apartment is almost identical to the one in the apartment of “Mauvais Sang”. In some ways it is almost like “Mauvais Sang” is an extension of “Boy Meets Girl”, or at least its story, even though the two are not related at all. Once again Denis Lavant stars as Alex and he is fantastic as usual. I am really becoming enamored with him and his skills as an actor, he fully embodies characters completely. However it was Mireille Perrier’s melancholic performance as Mireille that impressed me the most. The sadness behind her eyes is very apparent as she struggles with herself and her depression and the urges to commit suicide. She is really beautiful too and her surreal scene where she tap-dances alone in her apartment is one of the highlights of “Boy Meets Girl”. Such is her deep sadness throughout the film that we pray that she and Alex can get together and he can save her from herself.
Due to the lack of plot for most of the film, a lot of people may find “Boy Meets Girl” heavy going and a struggle to get through, but for myself the atmosphere mesmerized me and I found the film delightful. While it takes its time getting there, the first meeting between Alex and Mireille is definitely worth the wait. Lavant and Perrier have a great natural chemistry together which helps in believing that these two souls could be falling in love so quickly.
The highlight of “Boy Meets Girl” is its surprising climax that I never saw coming at all. It is beautiful and tragic all in one and the visual reveal is classic. The camera glides out of the window and turns around to show us a different angle of the scene we have just witnessed and thus we see the truth of what has just happened. I apologize for the vague description but it is something you should really see yourself.
Overall this is another unique and interesting take on love from Leos Carax. Separating itself from the rest of Carax’s oeuvre with its beautiful black and white cinematography, its themes and atmosphere remain consistent with the rest of his films. “Boy Meets Girl” is a beautifully tragic romance that I recommend wholeheartedly and would make a great introduction to someone unfamiliar with Carax’s work.