Immediately following my screening of “The Lovers On The Bridge”, I went straight into another Carax film, his second feature made in 1986 “Mauvais Sang” (which is listed as “Bad Blood” in the MIFF guide). The film is deceptive in its nature as it initially comes across as if it is going to be a heist film, but it ends up being more of a thesis on love or true love, I guess.
After being given two weeks to pay back a substantial debt owed to an American woman, two latter aged thieves, Marc and Hans, enlist the help of the son of a former friend who has just recently committed suicide (or was he murdered?) to attempt a heist that will not only pay off all their debts but set them up for the rest of their lives. The boy in question is Alex and his greatest asset is the speed of his hands, something that his father was also an expert at, which is an essential trait needed to pull off the complicated heist. The film is set sometime in the future where a sexually transmitted disease exists that infects people who engage in the act of lovemaking without really being in love. Even if only one is not in love, both parties are infected with the disease. One company has managed to distill the virus in anticipation of creating an antidote for it, and Marc and Hans plan on stealing the serum and selling it to a competitor for a sizeable cost. However while the plan has been immaculately worked out and seems to be fail-safe, Alex’s increasing infatuation with Marc’s much younger girlfriend, Anna, may be their biggest threat.
As I mentioned, the film is set up like a heist film but it really is a minor part of the whole film as the majority of the film exists in the conversations between Alex and Anna as the two grow increasingly closer. Such is its relevance that when the heist finally takes place, it takes little more than a minute of screen time.
“Mauvais Sang” has a strange atmosphere throughout. It is a very quiet film, full of silences and serene conversations, although it can explode into kinetic energy at any moment, like for instance when Alex suddenly dances to a David Bowie song, running through the streets of Paris. The characters constantly complain about the heatwave affecting the city which really adds to the strange quality of the film with the majority of the male characters wondering around shirtless for most of the film.
Once again Leos Carax has gotten fantastic performances from his cast especially from Denis Lavant who portrays Alex. He is just amazing and such a gifted physical performer too. Compared to “The Lovers On The Bridge”, the world of “Mauvais Sang” is much more stylized but while a certain connection to reality is lost to this style, the emotions expressed always come from an honest place.
Visually the film is very impressive and I especially loved the design of the house where the characters are shacked up in whilst waiting the perfect time to perform their heist, particularly the big glass windows at the front. Big bold colours are used expertly, especially the colour red, with the cinematography being impeccably and deliberately designed by Jean-Yves Escoffier and the results are gorgeous.
Another aspect I liked about “Mauvais Sang” is its refusal to answer all of the questions it poses. For example we never find out exactly what happened to Alex’s father, and a late revelation that Anna has a double is both shocking and exciting, yet never explained.
Overall, I found myself mesmerized by the strange atmosphere and wonderful filmmaking of “Mauvais Sang”. It just drew me into its world and became entrancing and I hope to revisit the film again soon. It was also nice seeing Julie Delpy in an early role as Lise.