Mr. X directed by Tessa Louise-Salomé

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Mr. X

a vision of Mr. Leos Carax

directed by Tessa Louise-Salomé (2014)

It came from a dream…”   -Leos Carax

Tessa Louise Salomé’s documentary of the films and charaXter of the enigmatic and elusive director Leos Carax, reveals Carax as a Third Man, with just enough streetlight to glimpse him the way he would want to be seen.

With its mobile of images spinning eerily by Gael Rakotondrabe’s enticing score, Louise-Salomé goes around the map where Carax has ventured to date in his five feature films over the last twenty years. The underpinnings of Caraxian cinema: it comes from instincts, dreams, imagination, life, casting. Louise-Salomé allows Carax to narrate these ideas directly, and through his writing, literally on the screen, which is a winning element. Her compositing, for example, of actor Denis Lavant as a young man flickering in the upper left hand corner of the screen, while contemporary Lavant gives frank interview portraits, adds to this mobile world of work, where the past and the present collapse and collide to immerse our senses fully in the integrity of Carax’s films. Lavant is generous in speaking effusively and honestly about his longtime role as Carax’s doppelganger, fracturing director and actor together as one person. Carax speaks of Lavant’s energy shot through each film. The actors from Lovers on the Bridge, like phantoms or puppets cast onto the Pont Neuf Bridge facing the Samaritan building, is just as iconic a memory as the view King Kong imprints on us from his point of view of the Empire State Building.

Louise-Salomé restricts any kind of exposé or even day in the life of the director; he is seen from angles, with his dog, wearing a mask, in a film by Harmony Korine. Plenty of mystery remains of cinematic life to come. Carax resembles a rockstar, or a variation on Godard, with his cropped spiky hair, tinted glasses, facial hair, and an expression like he’s treading time. For Carax, so much is revealed in the art, and the making of the art. When Carax is directing, he is in his element. He hints that his cinema could be a form of autobiography. Kylie Minogue, featured in Holy Motors (2014), describes the pensive stance Carax takes while working, and how much is being considered in each of his steps and pauses. Thankfully there is a future with Carax, since this documentary only marks the in and out point of his work to date. X is the unknowable integer-there is a limit to what can be glimpsed. The poster of the back of Carax’s head is apt for that which comes directly from his pineal gland, his dream/imagination life, for the clues and images on which to build films.

Louise-Salomé depicts Carax in his commitment to a realm of imagination in cinema that makes one swoon, vibrate with ecstatic energy, spawn goosebumps. Carax’s kinesthetic sense of the outer reaches of human experience with his chosen actors is unique, except maybe in theater, performance art, or dance. Louise-Salomé gives interviews with critics Richard Brody and Kent Jones, who praise the director’s cine-poetic risks. The sheer operatic skill of Carax’s range within each of the five films covered, elevates and thrills, encore une fois, those moments of momentum that build to a crescendo, like the fireworks/drunk/dancing scene between Binoche and Lavant in Lovers on the Bridge, or the orgasmic waterskiing scene in the same film, compared to a master painting by Carax editor Nelly Quettier.

Louise-Salomé includes Carax’s working relationship with his early cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier (they were inseparable on set), who made an immense contribution to Carax’s cinema. Just think of the art direction, the wildness, and the close-ups in  Mauvais Sang. Probing into the three-year making of  Lovers on the Bridge, with its entire reconstruction of the Pont Neuf in another location, and the money involved, Louise-Salomé provides shadows and hints of other difficulties and losses. Louise-Salomé glints over the complexities of making Pola X. She does not delve into Carax’s relationship with either Binoche or Golubeva. Only Binoche’s sister, Marion Stalens, a still photographer, appears to discuss the earlier films with Binoche.

One may be left wanting to know the name of Carax’s dog, or maybe even left wanting to hear Carax call his dog. One is still left to wonder about this “neighborhood voyeur” (Mauvais Sang). Louise-Salomé has marked up the map perfectly, giving a true sense of the world Carax creates from, even if not the complete Carax. There is direct access to his treasures through the films. One might wish to see more of Carax in conversation with someone on set, or even some more personal details, but Louise-Salomé lets Carax appear and reappear through the images in his work, and lets his persona, too, flicker.

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