Leos Carax: one at the tewitlmmakers around who can actually bring to the screen the complex teeling at being in love.

The latest in an impressive line of stylish French films is set to attract a cult following to rival that of Betty Blue and Nikita. It may appear to be a simple Parisian romance but the production was dogged by the kind of megabudget disasters more commonly associated with

Hollywood than France. Trevor Johnson spoke to LEOS CARAX,

director of Les Amants du Pont Neuf about money, love and joy.

etit, tanned, wiry and looking fab in the simplest of sombre garb, Leos Carax is hidden behind huge dark glasses. As arty French film directors go, he certainly looks and sounds the part. Hunched up on a hotel sofa, he chain-smokes and speaks so quietly, almost to himself, that it later proves testing to transcribe. ‘I’ve always had problems with my eyes,’ he mumbles, meaningfully, when I ask him about the shades. ‘I was in the desert in Arizona driving for too long. I burned my retinas.’

In France, however, some of the press wanted to burn the rest of him too. Preferably at the stake. Almost four years in the making, his third feature, Les Amants du

Pont Neuf, a virtual two-hander about homeless lovers on the Seine’s oldest bridge, became the country’s most expensive movie and acquired the status of a national scandal. The lengthy and troubled production that turned this simple Parisian romance into a megabudget spectacular sprung from an injury to star Denis Lavant at exactly the time when Carax had secured a permit to film on the Pont Neuf while the structure underwent major repairs. Shooting shut down, the permit was never to be renewed, and after many delays Carax and his crew moved the production to a lake in the South, where a vast replica ofthe bridge and its environs had been constructed. The money was to run out on several occasions before

Carax, attacked as a megalomaniac and feted as a visionary, finished the film, but its

. reputation as the French Heaven ’3 Gate gave § it little chance of making back the 150

million franc budget (around £16m) from its home box office.

The third feature in the past decade from the mysterious enfant terrible Carax is not his real name by all accounts Les Amants marks the final part in a loose trilogy comprising 1983’s Boy Meets Girl and Mauvais Sang/ The Night 15 Young in 1986. Collaborating on each occasion with cameraman J ean-Yves Escoffier, leading

e man and directorial alter-ego Lavant and

‘It always starts with the girl, I always wrote about the girls I was living with.’

(then) lovers Mireille Perrier and Juliette Binoche ‘It always starts with the girl,’ he says, ‘I always wrote about the girls I was living with’ his achievement has consistently been to turn the most familiar and leaden love story scenarios, to cinematic

10 The List 11— 24 September 1992