Cesar for best director: Leos Carax, the enchanter

Awarded Friday night for Annette, the impertinent child of French cinema takes on a filmography as rare as it is cursed.

César Friday for the best achievement for his rock opera Annette , Leos Carax is a lyrical and tormented filmmaker. The 61-year-old director also carries the reputation of a cursed artist. With only six feature films on the clock, he has oscillated throughout his career between the status of genius and that of shadow, passing through the financial abyss and the professional damnation of Lovers of the Pont-Neuf. A pendulum swing can finally be fixed on the side of success.

Almost a decade after the hallucinatory ballad of Holy Motors, Annette combines the desirable cap of critical and commercial success. For this dreamlike tale distributed by Amazon, Leos Carax trusted an astonishing duo: Marion Cotillard – in the shoes of an internationally renowned singer – and Adam Driver, to portray a stand-up comedian. The two lovers, passionate, will become parents of a mysterious little girl.

Presented at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, the musical is carried by the music of the American duo Sparks, an alternative figure since the 1970s and also at the origin of the idea for the film. A bold recipe, therefore, which has made its way and convinced the Académie des César. Annette received five awards on Friday: best editing, best visual effects, best sound, best original music. And best achievement, therefore, for Leos Carax. A secret artist, the filmmaker nevertheless did not come to receive him.

From one pair of lovers to another

After his thundering debut with Boy Meets Girls in 1984, then Bad blood two years later, this still youthful-looking Jean-de-la-Lune had trouble getting rid of the Lovers of the Pont-Neuf, a cult film and an economic shipwreck that has stuck with him since 1991. It is true that the man, walled up behind his dark glasses, does not lapse into consensus. Cigarette in hand and strangled voice, he explains that cinema is “to make films for the dead that we show to the living”.

Born Alex Dupont on November 22, 1960 in Suresnes near Paris, from a film critic mother in International Herald Tribune and a French science journalist father, the filmmaker explained that he chose his new name at the age of 13, “before even knowing that he would make movies one day”. Behind this curious nickname, we find the anagram of Alex and Oscar. Like François Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard – one of his masters – Leos Carax, a film student, briefly collaborated on Cinema Notebooks. He was barely 24 when he left. Boy Meets Girls26 for that of Bad bloodand already formed a trio with Juliette Binoche, his companion at the time, and Denis Lavant, his alter ego, who would play in four of his films.

Even before its release, The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) hits the headlines: three years of filming interrupted several times, a gargantuan setting that triples the initial estimate, for the story of a passion between two tramps (Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche). Denis Lavant, injured in the throat, will not speak to Carax for fifteen years. And the film will mark the end of his love story with Juliette Binoche. Carax then becomes the prototype of the romantic artist, cursed by the producers. After the failure of Pola X (1999), an adaptation of a novel by Herman Melville, he went into exile in New York where he was when the Cinémathèque française paid homage to him in 2004. He then indicated “to be unable to do anything else” than cinema, despite the temptation to stop everything.

Cannes nevertheless recalls him in 2008 in the “Un Certain Regard” section for a medium-length film, Shitshot in a hurry for a sketch film entitled Tokyo!. “I shoot so little. Shit did me a lot of good“, he confessed at the Locarno festival which awarded him a Leopard of honor in 2012. “Between 20 and 30 I made three films, between 30 and 40 one, and between 40 and 50 40 min. It went badly”. Thirteen years after the disgrace of Pola Xhe returns like a sphinx with Holy Motors (2012) shot “with digital cameras that he hates so much”. With Denis Lavant, he recycles Mr. Merde, his smelly monster, one brown eye the other white. The film is dedicated to his companion, the Russian actress Katerina Golubeva who committed suicide at the age of 44. The film is once again causing a stir in Cannes, between admirers and skeptics. It does not collect any prizes and only attracts some 125,000 spectators. But this strange and beautiful tribute to the history of cinema ensures the professional redemption of the director. And prepared the ground for his triumph Annette.


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