Bad Blood | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The distinctive and unusual talents of French filmmaker Leos Carax have relatively little to do with story telling, and it would be a mistake to approach this, his second feature, with expectations of a "dazzling film noir thriller," which is how it was described for the Chicago Film Festival last year. Dazzling it certainly is in spots, but the film noir, thriller, and SF trappings--hung around a vaguely paranoid plot about a couple of thieves (Michel Piccoli, Hans Meyer) hiring the son (Denis Lavant) of a recently deceased partner to help steal a cure to an AIDS-like virus--are so feeble and perfunctory that they function at best only as a literal framing device, an artificial means for Carax to tighten his canvas. The real meat of this movie is his total absorption in his two wonderful lead actors, Lavant and Juliette Binoche (The Incredible Lightness of Being), which comes to fruition during a lengthy attempt at the seduction of the latter by the former, an extended nocturnal encounter that the various genre elements serve only to hold in place. The true sources of Carax's style are neither Truffaut nor Godard but the silent cinema--its poetics of close-ups, gestures, and the mysteries of personality, its melancholy, its silence, and its innocence. Bad Blood uses color with a sense of discovery similar to that found in the morbidly beautiful black and white of Boy Meets Girl, and the rawness of naked emotion and romantic feeling is comparably intense. The tendency of critics to link Carax with the much older Beineix (Diva) and the much callower Besson (Subway) seems misguided, because as Carax points out, "Mauvais sang is a film which loves the cinema, but which doesn't love the cinema of today." From the standpoint of a Beineix or a Besson, Bad Blood is jerry-built and self-indulgent; from the standpoint of cinema, it blows them both out of the park. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday and Saturday, October 28 and 29, 6:00 and 8:15, 443-3737)

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