Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Holy Motors

Directed & Written 
Leos Carax

     There are films that challenge us, make us laugh and make us say what the fuck. That is Leos Carax's Holy Motors. This film is exciting, bewildering, innovative and emotional. Oh yeah, and its bat shit crazy in a wonderful, confusing, electrifying way. There are films that are shot with subtle brilliance, performances that give you an intense appreciation of how talented actors are and the raw satisfaction that there are filmmakers that have a vivid, insanely creative imagination and ability to craft a story. This is one of those films. Maybe its part David Lynch and maybe its part Luis Bunuel, but it is definitely all Leos Carax. Holy Motors is an experience. A pure graphic joy of what cinema is and what cinema can be. Not to mention, another realization of how foreign and European cinema is still leaps and bounds ahead of American cinema.
     Leos Carax's film follows Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) as he is chauffeured around Paris over the course of one night by Celine (Edith Scob) for a series "appointments." That is pretty much the easiest thing there is to understand and explain about the film. Monsieur Oscar is a chameleon. He is romantic, graphic, a physical beast and an aroused green suited individual, if one can say that. He defines a person that is everything and nothing at all. He can act out and become anybody through his travels, but at the same time always comes back to look at himself with sorrow and lust. Lust for the characters he embodies throughout the film and the toll it puts him through. Holy Motors is a film that contains so many different genre references and so little answers. Its a romantic comedy, dirty musical, crime thriller and family drama. That is one of its pleasures. It does not explain to you what is going on and leaves the answers to the viewers own interpretations. I like that in movies. I like that in this movie.
     The film opens with a man (the director himself) in a Paris hotel room looking for a way out. As he searches the walls for a possible doorway, he finds a knob like structure and his index finger turns into what appears to be a key that allows the man to break through a section of the door. He enters a balcony at a movie theater where the audience is staring at the screen with no movement, complete stillness. We see a baby walking down one aisle and a large dog on the other. What does it mean? It is an overture of some design and I believe lets the audience know they are in for a cinematic experience. It explains, possibly, what an audience should be like in the cinema as well. The film should have the audiences undivided attention and respect. Pure cinema, in its rawest, most creative form. I don't believe Jean-Luc Godard would say cinema is dead after Leos Carax's effort. There are no boundaries in this film and with this opening selection, we set out on a dreamlike, crazy journey with Monsieur Oscar.

     The film goes on in a continuous set of vignettes, that see Oscar turn himself into a murderer, a dancer, a father, a husband, a dying man and the aforementioned green suited, leprechaun like figure, amongst other impersonations. In one scene, Eva Mendes plays a model, named Kay M, who is being photographed in the cemetery, while this figure approaches her, eating flowers off tombstones with website addresses on them. He is a gnarled man, with long yellowish, dark fingernails, a blind right eye and thinning red hair. He walks with speed and frightens the sightseers. The photographer sees him and wants to photograph him and sees the correlation of a beauty and the beast type symbolism between the green suited man and the emotionless model. It views our appreciation of beauty and ugly with a grotesque honesty and calls into question what defines these classifications. As an assistant approaches him he bites her fingers off and kidnaps the model, dragging her into the Paris sewers. He dresses her differently and unclothes himself. He lays down beside her, covering himself in flower petals while having a large erection. Wild!
      The audience laughed during most of this scene and that is the madness of this picture. Oscar is so invested in these impersonations he crafts, and the scenes or edited and filmed with such ease that where something as gross and heinous as woman getting her fingers bitten off, is laughed at. It really is about how the brilliant Denis Lavant takes the role of Oscar and all his different characters and brings vibrancy, heart, soul and an unfiltered edge to these characters. He is completely fearless in his portrayal of these persona's. I really enjoyed Daniel Day-Lewis' reserved, honest acting in Lincoln and loved Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, but this is the best performance I have seen all year. Lavant is a revelation. In a film that blurries these lines between funny and serious drama, his performance carries the film jaggedly along. As well is the great Edith Scob. She is passionate and drives Oscar through the streets of Paris giving support, advice and a level of discipline. She is magnificent.

     The film is an interpretation, indictment and declaration of life and all its miseries. Its about love, loss, marriage, disappointment and the beauty of life. Its a riot and contains an intermission with an ecstatic, rousing street musical scene that is led by Oscar, with other musicians playing accordions, drums and guitars, through Paris, that is an enjoyable break from the madness. I did not find myself bored or uninterested one bit. It is confusing. Is there a God-like figure controlling Oscar and the other characters in the movie that do inherit and act out as other characters the same way Oscar does. The end of the film we see a long line of limos that go to a plant that has HOLY MOTORS in neon green lights. Why is this Oscar's job? What is the meaning of all these random acts, some of which made me more confused then possible. That's OK. You can come up with your own conclusions.
     All I can say is allow yourself to fall into this film. Immerse yourself in the experience of watching something wild and intoxicating. It's a pure expression of cinema and, in this viewers opinion, never falters and falls off. It knows what it is, whatever that may be, and you need to just give into it and enjoy the ride. Holy Motors is an experience, a cinematic indulgence. The images are sharp, the themes encapsulate the mind with vast aromas and the beauty of cinema. You will leave the theatre with more questions than answers but it is a nuthouse, wild ride. It's a movie that you will talk about when your done seeing it and you will either like it or not. I liked it, a lot. Do you yourself a favor and watch it. It is one of the best films of 2012 and comes highly recommended by this film viewer. 

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