ENFANTS TERRIBLES rarely age well, but Leos Carax somehow manages to renew his freshness date with every film. Carax may not work all that often—just five features in 30 years—but as the NW Film Center's terrific retrospective shows, each project that emerges arrives with a ferocious amount of energy.
Carax was only 24 when he made 1984's Boy Meets Girl, a mordant tale of mismatched lovers led by the director's alter ego, Denis Lavant, sporting a hairstyle and jacket that make him resemble a hastily carved ventriloquist dummy. Entrancing strangeness is on display throughout, but the multi-angled finale is fiercely on point.
The sci-fi fable Mauvais Sang followed in 1986, featuring a luminous performance by Carax's then-partner Juliette Binoche. The moment where a smitten Lavant skitters down the street to the sounds of David Bowie is one of those rare scenes with the power to permanently alter a movie lover's brain chemistry. (Just ask Noah Baumbach, who lifted it wholesale for Frances Ha.)
The two leads returned for 1991's The Lovers on the Bridge, a downtrodden romance elevated to hallucinatory levels (those fireworks!) and made notorious when a combination of lavish sets and freak injuries (only Lavant could rip a tendon while tying his shoe) caused its budget to swell to James Cameronian extremes. Folly or not, there's not a frame that feels like it could be snipped.
Pola X cranks up the volume, adapting a Melville novel into a modern love story that alternates between tender and grotesquely explicit, in addictively unpredictable waves.
Which all leads to 2012's Holy Motors, an exquisitely odd collection of vignettes about the mutability of life, the awesomeness of movies, and everything in between. (Rare is the film that can poke fun at Pixar and pay homage to Eyes Without a Face in the same breath.) For almost any other filmmaker, such a work would feel like a worthy capper to a career. With Carax, it's hard not to imagine that he's got a few more all-out wind sprints left in him.