Leos Carax, aka Alex Dupont (France, 1960), debuted at the age of 23 with
the black-and-white and Godard-esque drama Boy Meets Girl (1984),
an analysis of dysfunctional relationships and lonely desperate young people.
The dialogues are often "frozen" and cerebral like in
Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad.
A woman is driving with a child at night. She stops on a bridge. She makes
a phone call: her name is Maite' and she tells her husband
Henri that she has left him and taken their child Pimpernel, that she's driving to mountains and intends to dump his poems and painting into the river.
Which she does as soon as she hangs up.
Then she asks a young passer-by what day and time it is and walks back to the car. She drops a scarf and the passer-by, Thomas, picks it up.
Thomas is approached by his friend Alex, who starts talking about his girlfriend
Florence and we learn that she is leaving him for Thomas, his best friend.
Alex looks calm but then suddenly punches Thomas and almost throws him in the river. Alex leaves but then comes back and really pushes Thomas in the river.
Alex also takes the scarf which he believes is one of Florence's scarves.
The camera now turns to the face of a very sad young woman.
She, Mireille, is standing still while her boyfriend Bernard is moving out.
Alone, she turns on a loud Dead Kennedys song. Bernard calls from the intercom
of the apartment.
He psychoanalyzes their love story and why he now despises her, while we hear
the Dead Kennedys song come out of the intercom.
Alex happens to be passing by and overhears the conversation.
Alex follows Bernard in a bar. On the way out Bernard drops a letter and Alex picks it up.
Alex walks home, a tiny apartment. On the wall he has drawn a big map of his
life events, including milestones of his sexual life and of his criminal life.
He adds to it his recent murder attempt.
Alex hears his neighbors arguing over sex.
Alex starts typing on a typewriter but, annoyed by the noise, walks outside
and meets the female neighbor, while her boyfriend is throwing things at her from the window of their apartment.
Back to Mireille, she's learning how to tap dance.
It's night again and Alex walks to a park, where he stares at a couple kissing romantically.
Alex goes to sleep wearing his clothes.
He wakes up and the phone rings. It's his father checking on him.
and reminding him that he doesn't want to end up a bed-ridden vegetable, in other words that Alex is in charge of killing him.
Alex reads the note that Bernard dropped: it's a
note signed "Helen" in which Bernard and Mireille are invited to a
Alex makes photocopies of something he typed on a typewriter.
ALex steals records from a record store
We hear Thomas and Florence discussing oral sex while Alex is taking the elevator to their apartment. We don't see them, we just hear their voices.
Alex drops the farewell letter that he typed under the door of Thomas' apartment and hangs a bag with the stolen records to the door.
We then see a child in a subway station jumping the turnstile and then talking delirious to himself, while Alex is riding in the same car.
Alex, uninvited, shows up at Helen's party pretending to be a friend of Bernard.
Bernard is not there but Helen tells him that Mireille is there.
Helen is a woman in her 50s. She describes some of the guests: a
child who has the highest IQ in Europe, an artist and poet with a bullet in his head,
a Miss Universe of the 1950s, a
US astronaut who walked on the Moon, etc.
Alex swallows a drug from a vial and
sits next to an old man who
in sign language that
young people don't talk anymore
and that silent movies were better.
Alex talks to the astronaut and then makes a call to Thomas to tell him of letter under the door and of the records for Florence.
Then Alex opens the bathroom door and finds Mireille with scissors in her hand, perhaps suicidal.
Helen, who speaks English, pulls out from the fridge a giant cake and explains that the party is a memorial for her brother who died ten years earlier.
Mireille walks into the kitchen, wearing sunglasses: she cut her hair.
She remains alone with Alex. He laments that he's a loser: he is an aspiring
filmmakers but the only thing he has done so far is to dream up titles for the films he plans to make. And
he is about to leave to join the army.
He tells her that he saw her in the bathroom with the scissors.
Mireille moved to the city to find a job as a model or an actress but failed.
Alex reveals that he and Florence were living off her unemployment benefits.
Florence destroyed the
letters he wrote to her, but he has photocopies of them.
Alex shows Mireille the scarf that he thinks is Florence's.
We hear the noise of a storm as the guests leave the house.
With a long monologue Alex tells Mireille that he loves her but Mireille remains silent.
After this lengthy conversation in the kitchen, Mireille takes the bus with him to the train station.
Before the train leaves, Alex walks into a cafe to use the restrooms but then
starts playing pinball with a strangere and forgets his train.
He takes the drug from another vial and then
phones Mireille from a telephone booth whose glass has been broken (the camera shows him through the hole).
We see that Mireille is preparing to take a bath and doesn't pick up the phone.
Sensing that something is wrong, Alex runs to her apartment.
Alex wraps the scarf around his face like a bandit and walks in.
Water is overflowing from the bathtub.
Alex finds Mireille catatonic in the living room. She asks him for help. He hugs her and she starts bleeding from her mouth and he faints.
She falls to the floor too.
A couple has watched the scene from the window of another apartment but they don't react.
A flashback shows Mireille hiding a pair of scissors in her chest.
We guess that, when Alex hugged her, he involuntarily caused the scissors to
stab her to death.
The more experimental (but still Godard-ian)
Mauvais Sang/ Bad Blood/ The Night is Young (1986)
was basically a film noir.
Les Amants du Pont Neuf/ The Lovers on the Bridge (1991),
his first mainstream film, is a love
story between two artistic tramps, an alcoholic and a girl who is going blind.
Pola X (1999) is a mediocre and overlong adaptation of Herman Melville's novel "Pierre" (1852) transposed to 1990s Europe.
Pierre lives in an enormous mansion in the countryside with his rich mother Marie,
the widow of a diplomat, who calls him "brother" (and he calls her "sister").
He has a girlfriend, Lucie, who lives with her brother in another rich mansion.
Marie has been getting mysterious phone calls from someone who simply breathes
heavily into the phone.
Pierre's main occupation is to write his second novel after the success of
the first one.
Mother and son don't seem to do much else than smoke cigarettes all the time.
Lucie tells Pierre that their friend Thibault is back and he'll have to meet him.
He tells her about his recurring dreams about a girl.
Pierre meets Thibault, who is actually his cousin, and of course they smoke a cigarette while discussing
the decision that separated them when Thibault took a job far away.
Thibault notices that a weird girl is spying on them and she runs away when
Pierre turns towards her. Pierre gets on the motorcycle and rides around
trying to locate her, and he ends up crashing the motorcycle that belonged
to his father. Back home he tells his mother that this is the same girl that
they found one day rummaging through their garbage. The phone rings and
again nobody speaks. Pierre's new novel is inspired by this mysterious girl.
Marie decides the date for Pierre's wedding and Pierre sets out on the
motorcycle to tell Lucie. While crossing a dark forest he sees the weird girl
and chases her into the woods. She knows his name. She tells him that she
is his half-sister Isabelle, an illegitimate daughter of his father while
he lived in Eastern Europe. She tells him of growing up alone and in poverty.
She says that one day a Frenchman offered
her to live in his nice house with his wife. She was kicked out by the woman
after they had a baby. Then she lived in a farm, working as a peasant. Then
the war started and her mother was killed, and she realized that the man was
her father. Then she traveled to France to find her brother, and now she
lives under a bridge with other homeless
Pierre doesn't tell his mother and doesn't try to find
out whether the girl's story is true: she asks him to believe her and he
He bids farewell from Lucie and tells his mother that he is moving to the
capital city without Lucie. Then he grabs a sledgehammer and breaks into
a door that has been locked since his father's death but finds absolutely
nothing. He tells Lucie that they will pretend to be husband and wife,
and that his new novel will provide plenty of income.
Isabelle travels with two fellow refugees, a mother,
Razerka, and her little girl, Petruska,
also from the wartorn region. Upon arriving
in the capital they have to face the racism of a taxi driver and of the police,
as Pierre gets in a brawl.
Pierre looks for Thibault in a crowded party but
Thibault denies knowing him and has him kicked out.
Nice hotels refuse to take them in and Pierre has to settle for a cheap hotel.
Pierre asks his publisher for an advance, but he has lost his inspiration.
Unseen by Pierre and Isabelle,
a passer-by hits the child who insults him and she hits her head on the stones.
Petruska dies and Isabelle refuses to call the police because they would
deport the child's mother back to her country.
They move to a dilapidated warehouse: the lower floor is a vast sweatshop that employs immigrants but it is also used by avantgarde musicians; the upper floor is a hotel of sorts (with broken windows and no heating).
Pierre is getting depressed but Isabelle seduces him and they have passionate
sex (in a lengthy explicit scene). If she is really his half-sister,
Isabelle hears a radio broadcast about a bomb in the metro that killed
three people and imagines Pierre among the dead, but Pierre is safe.
He befriends the leader of the musicians.
While he is writing frantically his novel, we hear the screeching of his
pen on the paper and we see Marie riding the motorcycle and crashing.
Marie dies. Pierre watches the funeral hiding behind a tombstone.
Pierre is informed that Lucie is very ill, and that Thibault
is taking care of her. Pierre writes nonstop, even in bitter cold weather.
Lucie, who was obviously kept prisoner, runs away and reaches Pierre's place
but Thibault and her brother try to stop her. They beat Pierre, who is saved
by the musicians. Lucie wants to live with Pierre, and Pierre tells
Isabelle that Lucie is her cousin. So Pierre now lives with three women:
Isabelle, Lucie and Razerka.
The publisher requires that Pierre appears live on television but the
interview is a disaster.
the media attack him. Furious, he vandalizes cars until someone stops him
and drives on his foot, leaving him disabled.
A delirious Isabelle tries to commit suicide jumping into a river.
When she wakes up, Thibault is next to her, telling her that Lucie
was Pierre's lover. Isabelle feels deceived.
The publisher rejects his manuscript as plagiarism.
Pierre steals two guns from the sweatshop and steals a van to drive to
his old mansion. He crashes against a bus and has to take the metro.
He limps around the city until he finds Thibault and kills him.
Lucie and Isabelle are looking for him but arrive when he is already being
taken away by the police.
Isabelle commits suicide throwing herself under the ambulance that is coming
to pick up Thibault's corpse.
After a 13-year hiatus, Carax directed Holy Motors (2012), a
surrealistic (but very realistic) parade of acting stunts.
The protagonist is a professional actor, but an actor who plays no story.
He just plays whatever character he is told to play, for no other purpose
than he has been ordered to do it. His day is a long day, and he is risking
his health. Nonetheless, he seems passionate about acting.
He is hired to simply act other people's lives and we cannot tell which is
his real one.
The mood of the film swings from enigmatic puzzle to sardonic humor and to
While one can see the influence of David Lynch's films and of absurdist theater,
this orgy of artificial identities is more than just a metaphysical thriller
or a satire of society. At times it looks like a
psychoanalytical nightmare (he kills himself a couple of times).
All the characters in the film may be acting a role (which, if we take a step
back, is obviously true of the actors who made the film). The exception
may be the chaffeur, but even she at the end wears a mask.
The only ones who are not pretending to be others are the limousines,
except, of course, that, in real life, limousines don't talk...
The first scene shows a movie theater in the dark, every seat occupied by a person. We don't see which movie is being shown but we hear the sound.
A man (the director himself?) walks up, gets off his bed, walks out of the bedroom
like a somnambulist and enters the
upper level of the theater, from which he contemplates (still dressed only
in his pajama) the audience.
walks out of his mansion and into the limo where his female
secretary and chaffeur Celine is waiting with a dossier about his first
appointment. He discusses on the phone the need to buy guns.
The limo stops in the city center. Out of the limo comes an old woman with
a horrible hump who starts begging for money in the street.
Later the limo stops at a place where the old beggar starts removing her
makeup, false teeth and mask, and we see that it is just Oscar.
Celine hands him another dossier.
The limo drops him off at a movie studio and Oscar gets out of the car
wearing a black catsuit with white balls.
He walks into a dark stage and is directed by the voice of an invisible director
to perform some acrobatic kungfu-style moves and then to grab a gun and run
on an accelerating treadmill until he collapses. His movements are captured
by infrared lights and sent to a computer, and every now and then we
see the trace on the computer. An actress dressed in red walks in and joins him
on the dark stage for a sex simulation.
Done with this job, he changes face again.
This time the limo takes him to a manhole. He drops into it
barefoot and walks along the sewer to another manhole. He climbs out and
finds himself in a cemetery. He walks around like a madman, eating flowers and
scaring people. He reaches the spot where a famous photographer is taking
pictures of a supermodel. The photographer starts taking pictures of him
and his assistant invites the madman to join the model. Oscar simply loads
the model (who opposes no resistance) on his shoulders and flees. For a while
the photographer chases him still taking pictures. Oscar takes the model
to the sewers. She calmly sits next to him while he eats banknotes and even
some of her hair. He changes her dress so she looks like a veiled odalisque,
he strips naked, he lies on her womb, he spreads leaves over his own body and
finally falls asleep. For a few seconds nothing happen, as if he wanted the
photographer to take pictures of this tableu.
After leaving the sewers, he removes all the makeup and becomes a normal
person and drives a normal car to pick up a girl, Angela, who calls him "dad'
(but at this point we don't know if this is another impersonation or real
life). It is now evening. Angela is coming from a party where initially she pretends to have had
a lot of fun; but he makes her confess that she actually hid into the bathroom
all the time because she feels she is unattractive. After dropping her off,
the next dossier in the limo reads "Interlude".
Celine's limo takes him to a deserted church where he starts
playing the accordion.
Other accordionists join him and then a child playing percussion and a guistarist, and they all march together playing the same song.
It is now night.
The next dossier in the limo ominously has a picture of "your victim" and a picture
of "your weapon".
He shaves and walks into a warehouse. He confronts a man who looks
like his twin and stabs him to death.
He shaves the dead man's head, attaches a moustache to his face and uses
a knife to carve the same scars that he himself has. The dead man, however,
wakes up and stabs him in the neck. Now they are both lyng on the floor and bleeding profusely. He limps outside where it is raining heavily. He collapses
before the limo and Celine has to drag him into the car.
Minutes later he is removing his makeup and chatting with an old man who
congratulates him for the day's work.
We now realize that he is hired to perform these acts. He confesses that he
enjoys the acting. It sounds like he used to be a real actor because he
says that he misses the cameras. Now he performs in front of nobody.
The old man disappears. (Maybe it was just his conscience?)
Oscar asks Celine to stop, grabs a pistol, covers his face and, shirtless,
walks into a cafe and shoots a banker who looks like the Oscar who came
out of the mansion in the morning. The bodyguards shoot him repeatedly.
As he is lying on the ground apparently dead, Celine rushes to remind him
that they are running late for the next appointment.
This time he is a very old man who can barely walk. He lives in a luxury
apartment alone with a dog and a niece, Lea. He feels lonely and talks
about death. She feels miserable because her husband married her only for the
money. Oscar dies and Lea starts crying on his body but... Oscar gets up,
and apologizes that he is running late. They exchange a few words and we learn
that Lea too is an actress, and she too has to run to another appointment.
Celine is driving Oscar to the last appointment of the day. Oscar is coughing
and looks weak. Oscar falls asleep. He wakes up abruptly when Celine's limo
almost collides with another, identical limo. (We don't know whether this
is real life or this is the last "appointment" of the day). There's a woman
in the other limo. They don't know each other but then they start walking
and chatting as if they have known each for a long time: she is disappointed
that he still has the same job after twenty years.
She tells him that she is impersonating a
flight attendant (is she doing it right now with him or is she taking a break
from doing it?) and takes him to a building that is being
renovated to become a luxury hotel.
On the roof of the building, overlooking the city at night,
sings a nostalgic song, typical of two lovers who were once happy and then broke up. She calls him Jean, which implies that they are acting.
Oscar tells her that there is something she doesn't know, but he doesn't say it.
She is expecting another man and Jean doesn't want to meet him. Jean leaves.
The woman climbs over the edge of the roof, where the giant letters of the
building's name are lit, and stands for a few seconds like an extra letter
in the name, ready to jump. Jean avoids the man who is walking up the stairs
and who calls his name and speaks English. Jean walks back to the limo but
runs into the woman's dead body, blood spattered all over the sidewalk.
The man also jumped and his body is lying next to her. Oscar/Jean screams
and runs into the limo (who screamed? Oscar, tired of the game, or Jean,
a character in the charade?) This time he seems honestly shaken in the car,
as Celine drives him to one more appointment. Perhaps this suicide scene was
real life; certainly it wasn't the last appointment because there is one more.
It's almost midnight. The dossier for the new appointment shows a picture of
"your house" and a picture of "your wife and your daughter".
He wishes Celine good night and walks into the house (this is the only time
that the soundtrack plays a song). Oscar is still coughing. He rings the bell
and... a chimp opens the door. He treats the chimp like a wife.
Then we see them from the outside staring outside the window, and the daughter
too is a chimp.
Meanwhile, Celine drives to a vast garage called "Holy Motors". She parks,
wears a mask and walks out, turning off all the lights. There are about twenty
identical limos parked next to each other. As soon as she is gone, the limos
start talking to each other. Some of them simply want to sleep, but others
are anxious that they may soon end up in a junkyard.
Annette (2021) is a musical scored by the band Sparks.