Mauvais Sang Review
Leos Carax made his second film, Mauvais Sang (also known as Bad Blood or The Night Is Young) in 1986. The film stars Michel Piccoli, a 22-year old Juliette Binoche and a fresh-faced Denis Lavant (it’s hard to believe but yes, he was once ‘fresh-faced’!). A young Julie Delpy also has a minor role in the film.
Mauvais Sang has a superb cast, but they are not given much to do here except look beautiful in their close-up shots, and they all do that very well. The director’s love for Juliette Binoche’s features is clear as the camera particularly lingers over close-ups of the actress throughout the film. The film however has a rather lightweight plot that lacks any real substance, involving a couple of rival gangs attempting to obtain an AIDS-like virus from a laboratory. It looks like Carax was just flexing his muscles here for Les Amants du Pont Neuf (which would re-unite Binoche and Lavant) and he plays around with ideas, music, colour, lighting and camera angles, even using the same types of characters who appear in that film. The film could be considered worthy as an early experiment by a director who although rather undisciplined, clearly has a unique style and vision – although it is debatable whether he has ever succeeded in putting that vision on the screen. I wouldn’t normally have found it worth sitting through 2 hours of Mauvais Sang again but for the fact that it looks so well on this DVD release.
Surprisingly, despite a poor record with their back catalogue, Fox Lorber have produced a superb anamorphic transfer - though curiously at a ratio of about 1.69:1 - of an almost perfect print provided by the producer of the film. The colours are deep and vibrant. The image is a little soft and there is a slight fuzziness and loss of detail in long shots, but probably the result of a PAL to NTSC conversion, which also causes some motion blur. Close-ups however – which must make up at least 60% of the film – are clear and striking in their detail. All style and no substance then, but when a film looks as good as this, it deserves to be seen the way it has been transferred here. Subtitles are clear and readable and removable, but yellow.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is unexceptionable, but is quite adequate for the film. There is good use of music on the soundtrack from David Bowie (Modern Love) to Prokofiev (Peter And The Wolf) and Britten (Simple Symphony). The sound is clear and strong and there’s no real faults to speak of.
There are extracts of a interview with the director recorded before a live audience, describing his haphazard and reckless approach to film-making – basically, he has a very loose outline of the film and improvises things as he goes along until he runs out of money. He describes his use of this approach in Mauvais Sang and in Les Amants du Pont Neuf, so it is relevant to the film and quite interesting. The outtakes consist of additional and preparatory takes of Juliette Binoche’s close-ups which are lovely, but they don’t add anything to the film. There is no trailer for Mauvais Sang included, but there is a trailer for Carax’s latest film Pola X starring Guillaume Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve.
Screenshots are provided to compare this edition with the Artificial Eye Region 2 edition, available in the Leos Carax Collection. Native PAL, there is none of the motion blur or softness of this edition, however the reds look rather more boosted and oversaturated on the Artificial Eye edition. Fox R1 edition first, Artificial Eye R2 second.
Fox Lorber/Winstar seem to have put every effort into producing the best possible version of this film. For me, it breathed new life into what is an interesting but not a great film. Fox Lorber have also released fine editions of two other Carax films, Boy Meets Girl and Pola X (which contains a commentary by Guillaume Depardieu). It’s very pleasing to see an American distributor of modern world cinema putting this much effort and care into films that are not going to attract a large audience, and for a much lesser price than Criterion releases.