(director/writer: Leos Carax; cinematographer: Jean Yves Escoffier; editor: Nelly Quettier; music: David Bowie; cast: Denis Lavant (Alex Lavognan), Juliette Binoche (Anna), Michel Piccoli (Marc), Hans Meyer (Hans), Julie Delpy (Lise), Carroll Brooks (The American Woman), Jerome Zucca (Thomas), Serge Reggiani(Charlie), Hugo Pratt (Boris); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Philippe Diaz; Winstar Cinema; 1986-France-in French with English subtitles)

“Its romantic moody style had a lyrical way about it that was affecting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Leos Carax (“The Lovers on the Bridge”/”Pola X”/”Boy Meets Girl”)sets this arty absurdist romantic thriller in Paris, in the near future, giving it some elements of a sci-fi story and other elements as a parody of noir films. It’s the young filmmaker’s second feature after Boy Meets Girl (1984) and tells about a grumpy, chain smoking, teenager, loner, street punk, cardsharp hustler named Alex Lavognan (Denis Lavant), whose estranged gangster father Jean was either recently killed by a rival gang run by the wealthy American Woman (Carroll Brooks) or committed suicide. Jean’s gang led by the aging Marc (Michel Piccoli) believe he was slain by the sinister American Woman. Since Alex has fast hands like his dad, Marc recruits him to replace his dad to steal from a big pharmaceutical company a culture of their vaccine for an AIDS-like disease called STBO to sell to a rival foreign drug company and thereby for Marc to clear his debt with the American Woman and become rich in the process. The mysterious virus spreads through people who indulge in sex without love, and has reached epidemic proportions among the young.

Alex agrees to do the job in the hopes the large amount of money promised will enable him to start a new life, as he dumps his loving 16-year-old girlfriend Lise (Julie Delpy) and gives away all his possessions to her and his troubled friend Thomas (Jerome Zucca). Marc and his ex-doctor partner Hans (Hans Meyer) agree to arrange for the kid to parachute into Switzerland after the heist, to wait for his cut in the robbery in an arranged hideout, only complications arise when Alex falls in love with the boss’s girl–the 30-year-old Anna (Juliette Binoche). But she’s still attached to Marc, even if he’s older by double her age, and only finds the kid charming.

The story line grows increasingly tiresome, the female characters are developed weakly as ciphers and too many arty pretensions make things feel heavy-handed. But the atmospheric visuals in creative colors give it a striking Jean-Luc Godard Breathless-like New Wave noir feel and the questions about such things as trust, security, love and solitude offer enough intelligent provocative concerns to keep the pic from being crushed by too much self-indulgence. I can’t say I was overwhelmed, but its romantic moody style had a lyrical way about it that was affecting.

The film’s most engaging scene has a vexed Lavantdancing through the Paris streets to David Bowie’s Modern Love.

Mauvais Sang received the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival and the International Fantasy Film Award at the Fantasporto Film Festival.