In 1984, at the age of twenty-three, an enterprising film critic named Leos Carax made Boy Meets Girl, a debut feature of extraordinary passion and vigor.
It premiered at the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes film festival, and it hit the French cinema like a lightning bolt — sudden and electrifying. The film concerns an aspiring young filmmaker, a glum twentysomething named Alex (Denis Lavant), abandoned by one girlfriend and entranced by another. He spends his days shoplifting records and devising titles for movies he hasn’t yet made, while at night he drifts through the streets in headphones, on a vague quest for meaning. He seems, not insignificantly, like a hero Godard might have created.
Carax, of course, has long been regarded as the principal inheritor of the legacy of the nouvelle vague, and his debut bears all the hallmarks of an erudite cinephile eager to celebrate his inspirations.
The influence of the Young Turks manifests itself not so much in direct references — there are few of the citations Carax would delight in three decades later, with Holy Motors — as in its sumptuous aesthetic and its literate, modernist sensibility.
Nevertheless, Carax is trying to articulate thoughts and feelings all his own, and Boy Meets Girl never quite feels derivative; rather the overall impression is of a film lover working through his affections to get to the originality beneath them. Though it isn’t yet fully formed, a faint glimmer of genius is perceptible throughout.