gold by mere virtue of his astonishing visual bravura. . Carax has a cine-literate gift for

composition and movement that exists almost independently from his rather

offhand grasp of narrative. You could, for i instance, write out the plot for Les Amants i

on the back of a pack of Gauloises. Alex. (regular alter-ego Denis Lavant) is a despairing down-and-out who’s made his home on the currently closed Pont Neuf. Staggering drunkenly home one night. he finds Michele (Juliette Binoche) sleeping on his usual patch. She’s an art student from a comfortable home, but a terrible degenerative eye disease and some unexplained trauma in the recent past have

‘I relate to silent films much betterthan the stupid kind at naivety we see these days. That King Vidor film The Crowd, I haven’t

seen anything since that tells you so much

about what it is to be a woman, what it isto lose everything, what it is to contront death.’

left her out on the streets. Initially wary of each other, an unlikely emotional attachment soon grows between these two outsiders: she helps him back to health to resume his fire-eating act and he in turn lets her stay on the bridge and work at her drawing until her sight grows too weak to continue. A massive firework celebration lighting up the city sets the seal on their ecstatic affair, but when a poster campaign featuring Michelle’s face springs up all over the underground it’s a sign that her family are trying to contact her and the two lovers may have to part.

Carax’s opening sequences on the streets of Paris, shocking in their raw depiction of the homeless underclass, display a less manicured approach to imagery than was the case in his two earlier films and, although the theme of mismatched romance remains the same, here the young director’s gift for drawing emotional impact from his instinctive visual command comes through even more strongly. It might sound corny, but he’s one of the few filmmakers around who can actually bring to the screen the complex feeling of being in love.

‘I’m interested in joy,’ he says, and certainly the eye-boggling setpiece where Lavant and Binoche career along the Seine on a stolen speedboat while the city erupts in a firework display conveys a truly rare sense of exhilaration. ‘It’s like everything is on fire around them and they look at each other. there’s so much noise that they can’t hear,

but there’s a rope connecting them. Some


people just see it as a big scene that cost a lot of money, but that look between Denis and Juliette is the shot that I’m most proud of.’

While he is inevitably bracketed with those other major 80s Gallic stylists Jean-Jacques Beneix and Luc Besson, Carax prefers to acknowledge his debt to a much earlier generation of our movie heritage. ‘The real subject of films should be joy and I think the pioneers of filmmaking had that real passion,‘ he reflects. ‘I relate to silent films much better than the stupid kind ofnaivety we see these days. That King Vidor film The Crowd, I haven‘t seen anything since that tells you so much about what it is to be a woman, what it is to lose everything, what it is to confront death.

‘80 I try to be a beginner, you know. I try to put myself in a position where I don’t know what I’m doing. It might sound a little pretentious to say that, but because of the sheer intuition in Les Amants du Pont Neuf it’s more interesting to me than my other

work. It was the first picture I’ve made where I was lost in my life and lost on the set,

5 so instead of being the person who

pretended he knew what he was doing I started the film looking for something but not knowing what.’

_ Appropriately, he reserves most praise for Lavant and Binoche, whose commitment to the project held firm all the way through the travails ofproduction. “They’re the best actors in the world,’ he maintains. ‘I wrote the script for them and it couldn’t have been made with anybody else. They were so

1 generous and what they express on screen is

so strong that I want audiences to see it and share in it. I’d love to go around the world from country to country, just showing it to artists, writers, poets. . .’

Les Amants du Porzt-Neuf opens at the Edinburgh Film/rouse on Friday 11 September and at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sunday 13 September.

The List 11— 24 September 199211