A Nocturnal Summer

The French director Leos Carax and his movie Boy Meets Girl is in our radar. You are invited to a lonely summer night. Shadows will be our friends.

But Boy Meets Girl is a slow movie. We meet Alex (Denis Lavant) who is a loner betrayed by his girlfriend Florence. And then we have Mireille (Mireille Perrier), left alone on a summer&rsquos night by her insensitive boyfriend. The movie is rich with dark shadows in black and white images. The feeling is deep and lonely.

The boy meets the girl. But there is this peripheral action, obscuring the central business of their meeting. A women drives to the mountains with her skis and ski poles pokes through a hole in her windshield and a man opens a giant empty fridge to kneel before it.

The boy meets girl. It&rsquos a slow summer. But the emotions are wintry. Boy&rsquos and girl&rsquos skin glow but not with sweat but with some artificial light. It is cold. But love is cold too sometimes. Death is cold. But love is like death sometimes. They talk and their words paint a portrait of isolation in sex and selfishness in love. Sex trivializes love.

Carax avoids standard film syntax. He moves through a series of increasingly original shots, his frames growe as timelessly radical as Dreyer&rsquos in The Passion of Joan of Arc. The unavoidable declaration of love is spoken by an out-of-focus face to one in half-light. The care the director lavishes on his set-ups and poetic dialogue suggests that the love with which he is most concerned is the love of cinema. His slowness is that of a young lover, not tentative, but still making a conscious and surprised effort to take in everything about the one he loves: the freckle on the upper lip or the small but elegant fingers.

Many have gone against cinema&rsquos innate theatrical nature by taking a camera in hand and getting in the subjects&rsquo faces, mimicking documentary while overlooking the fact that a trembling camera is as much of a reminder of the cinematic apparatus as a studio set with a fake moon painted on a flat. These various gestures are dictated by the filmmaker&rsquos intention regarding the world he wants to represent: is he striving to &ldquocapture&rdquo the world we all live in or is he inviting us into a world of his own making? Carax creates worlds. He embraces artifice, as Boy Meets Girl makes explicit when a shot of the stars turns out to be the spackled floor on which Mireille is tap-dancing. Carax is one of the most important filmmakers of our time because his artificial worlds increasingly reflect the &ldquoreal&rdquo world. His latest feature, Holy Motors (2012), presents a bitter, sorrowful portrait of our era&mdashone where the artifice has caught up with the artificer and the lover of cinema has become a mourner of celluloid&mdashyet it is a constant joy to inhabit because Carax&rsquos 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.