The French director Leos Carax made Boy Meets Girl (1984) at the age of twenty-three. You would expect a filmmaker in such a hurry to get his first feature out the gate to make something that zips past or hurtles forward, a youthful bullet train that leaves you with a smeared impression of shapes and faces and—if all went well—the promise of movies to come. But Boy Meets Girl is a slow movie, moving at a zig-zagging crawl to an inevitable but long-delayed outcome: the meeting of Alex (Denis Lavant), a nocturnal loner betrayed by his girlfriend Florence, and Mireille (Mireille Perrier), left alone on a summer’s night by her insensitive boyfriend. The movie is drawn out by the rich, dark shadows of its black-and-white images—deep pools in which the gaze finds no end—and the way Carax’s constant inventiveness lights up the peripheral action—nearly obscuring the central business of girl meeting boy—with a density of details including a woman driving to the mountains with her skis and ski poles poking through a hole in her windshield, and a man opening a giant empty fridge to kneel before it and cool off.
Trailer, Boy Meets Girl, fully restored (2014)
Carax is one of the most important filmmakers of our time because his artificial worlds increasingly reflect the “real” world. His latest feature, Holy Motors (2012), presents a bitter, sorrowful portrait of our era—one where the artifice has caught up with the artificer and the lover of cinema has become a mourner of celluloid—yet it is a constant joy to inhabit because Carax’s inventiveness prevails as a force of resistance.Holy Motors gives us the hope that grim circumstances can still elicit great art, which may in turn be the first step to overcoming grim circumstances. Perhaps the young artist Leos Carax, already a great melancholy elegist, embraced slowness in Boy Meets Girl because he knew the future was coming fast enough. In any case, he left us this luscious reminder that slow can be the furthest thing from boring.