Leos Carax comes back after a 13 year hiatus to present us with a beautifully weird, absurdist film, which is both 'a tribute to cinema' as well as 'an ode to film (celluloid)'. It doesn't have a linear story or much of a plot, and doesn't make much sense in its entirety. But there's something oddly delightful about it, and keeps you intrigued till the very end. It is unlike anything one has seen before. There are various film references in the movie which would keep cinephiles amazed.Shakespeare says, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." This movie is like a literal adaptation of that text; it follows an actor named Mr. Oscar, who dons one role after the other, in actual settings, in front of seemingly invisible cameras. It compares an actor's roles to real-life roles, and the themes tackled are similar too - love, sex, despair, death, etc. And in his journey, we also come across various genres of films. What does it mean to be an actor? How is it costing one? Till what does one have to go to make it feel authentic? These are just few of the questions it makes us wonder. And other than the screenplay, it's the brilliant performance of talented actor Denis Lavant that makes us wonder that. All the sequences have something to offer; they move you, make you laugh, or make you think.Few notable film references: - 'Mon Oncle' (the interior of first house) - 'Lovers on the Bridge' (Beggar sequence, La Samaritaine) - 'Mauvais Sang' (motion-capture sequence with red & white lines scrolling in the background) - 'Tokyo!' (the pseudo-leprechaun Merde; he also eats sushi before performing it) - monster movies like 'King Kong' and 'Godzilla' (Merde picking up the model; the original score from 'Godzilla') - 'Underground' (Accordion scene) - 'Breathless' (The name 'Jean', as in Jean Seberg, Kylie Minogue's hairstyle, the mention about lost baby, suicidal tendency) - 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' (Kylie's singing sequence) - 'Cremaster 5' (Kylie's dive backwards from the building) - 'Max Mon Amour' (being married to monkey) - 'Eyes Without a Face' (the same actress, the same mask), which is both 'a tribute to cinema' as well as 'an ode to film (celluloid)'. It doesn't have a linear story or much of a plot, and doesn't make much sense in its entirety. But there's something oddly delightful about it, and keeps you intrigued till the very end. It is unlike anything one has seen before. There are various film references in the movie which would keep cinephiles amazed.
Holy Motors (2012)A bizarre (and highly praised) film that is ambitious and inventive to the point of pain. I wish it was as brilliant as it intends. As we follow the leading character Oscar through a series of seemingly unconnected events, it struck me that the goal is simply to stage these odd moments, almost choreographed surreal adventures where he takes on different personae (with elaborate costumes). The events don't achieve what you might call depth or meaning. They are interesting—how could they fail on that score?—yet interesting turns out to be not enough.Still, look for high style throughout, some terrific underworld insanity, some unfiltered sex and violence, and lots and lots of pretense. I have a feeling there are some people who might rate this among their favorite films and so I'd say give this a try. It might take half an hour to know whether the changing roles and scenes (and the self-indulgence) will keep you sustained.Since Oscar is shuttled from one location to another in a stretch limo, you get the feeling he might just be a filthy rich eccentric who refuses to be bored with life. He admits he started doing this (every day, we get the sense) for "the beauty of the act," and this high level of aesthetic tension seems insufficient for the depravity involved.This is a French-German enterprise, set in Paris. It has enough quiet moments to make you impatient, but from the pause it will take off on another romp. The actor has to be admired, for sure—Denis Levant, known for his boundary pushing roles (from Shakespeare to experimental film). The director, Leos Carax is likewise associated with the avant garde —and with Levant. But they have tried to keep their grand experiment traditionally cinematic, as well, so there are lots of ways to appreciate what's going on. The filming is sublime, the ambiance from lighting to set design is gorgeous.There is that dangerous point in a art when a work gets so serious it demands of itself a kind of perfect to succeed. And there are so many little holes here, even some odd moments in the acting, it becomes almost laughable. At times. Which is too bad. There is a lot here to take quite seriously, I think. Then again, maybe it's meant to be an absurdist dark comedy all the way. Which means we're allow to laugh after all. Go for it.
Holy Motors is like a more out-there version of the films of Charlie Kaufman. You should expect surreal surprises, and my advice would be to not read too much about it before watching it, so you can just let the film happen to you, like an art experience. Don't expect this story of a man (a fully committed Denis Lavant) taking on 9 different personas in a day in Paris to make any neat logical sense, this is a film of dreams and ideas - music, madness, death, sex, despair and comedy. It seems to be about questions around acting - what does it mean to be an actor? aren't we all playing the part of our own lives? what does performing a role cost us? how does a performance manage to move us so intensely? I saw this at the Sydney Film Festival with a large audience, and it was interesting listening to people's laughter. Sometimes that was in response to a comic scene, but at other times it seemed more that a startling idea or image left some people not knowing how else to respond (eg a very odd short scene near the end, as Denis ends his workday, caused some people to laugh, while I found it terribly moving). The delight is in the individual scenes, though some of the scenarios have a real sadness to them: the motion capture scene, where human movement proves spellbinding in a way that CGI can never be; the sad tale of the daughter returning home after a party; the wonderfully crazed and uncomfortable Eva Mendes segment (make sure you check out the writing on the gravestones); and the surprisingly dramatic scene featuring pop icon Kylie Minogue (whose other film appearances were never anything like this). The tone and quality isn't consistent the whole way through, which can feel like a flaw, but it also keeps you on your toes. You might find parts of it pretentious or difficult to interpret, but the next moment you may be moved and not know why. It will definitely make most of the films you've watched recently seem very very dull.
Holy Motors must be the strangest, maddest and most bizarre film I've seen since at least Love Exposure and possibly ever. In a statement about the nature of both acting and the digitalisation of the world, Leos Carax's film stars Denis Lavant as a man who travels through Paris in a white limousine that is driven by Edith Scob. Along the way he stops for various 'appointments' for which he adopts an entirely different character complete with makeup, mannerisms and speech. Throughout the course of the day he becomes a beggar woman, motion capture artist, assassin, disappointed father plus many more.The film's message or statement is open for interpretation and after telling my girlfriend what I though I asked her the same, to which she replied "I thought it was about weird stuff". The film is enjoyable however you view it and whether or not you read into any hidden messages or not. The themes that I personally believe the film is tackling may be totally different to the person next to me but it doesn't matter. Holy Motors is a thrilling, darkly comic and bonkers film that is worth tracking down.Due to the film's premise, subject matter and country or origin, we got the chance to travel to our local Art House Cinema, Cornerhouse in Manchester. We saw the film in their small room which contains just 58 seats but when the lights went down the cinema was full. After an ominously bizarre opening we see Denis Lavant leave his seemingly loving family and mansion behind and head for a waiting limousine. If this were any other film you'd likely expect he was a businessman or some sort but it isn't long before his driver takes him to his first 'appointment'. Before this opening appointment the camera swoops around to show the remainder of the limousines' interior which instead of being filled with sofas, TVs and fridges is stocked with all manner of props, wigs and makeup cases. In no time Lavant is transformed into his first character, an old beggar woman of the sort you see around The Eiffel Tower. After several minutes of being ignored on the street he is back in the limo and off to his next appointment. The second and third appointments are for me the highlights of the film. One is an incredibly beautiful look at motion capture, shot in a darkened room with UV light and features incredible visuals, choreography and the most contorted woman I've ever seen. The third is the strangest and funniest vignette and sees Lavant dressed as a sort of tramp/Quasimodo figure and having interrupted a fashion shoot, steals the model before taking her to his underground lair. The film reaches a crescendo at this point which it is never really able to match. At the time I thought to myself "I'm looking at Eva Mendes dressed in a Burqa, singing a lullaby to a naked man with an obvious and exposed erection. Where can they go from here?" The answer is that they reel the film in slightly and take the audience to more emotional and heartfelt places.Denis Lavant's performance in this film is simply incredible. I haven't seen a better acting job this year and I'd be surprised if I do. If the film wasn't so strange and commercially off-putting he would be a shoe-in for the major awards next February. Even so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see an Oscar nomination if the Academy is feeling brave. Lavant literally transforms himself about nine or ten times, playing totally different characters each time. It's not just the sheer number tha
I suspect that viewers will either love or hate "Holy Motors," a surreal French drama that eventually falls victim to its own pretentiousness.It tells the tale of an actor/quick-change artist who rides around Paris in a specially designed stretch-limo, donning various costumes and enacting bizarre movie-type scenes for paying customers. One moment he's a sewer-dwelling beast in search of a "beauty;" the next he's a hit man , then a female beggar, then a dying old man, even, at one point, a CGI effect come to life.Written and directed by Leos Carax, the movie ultimately emerges as a cinematic Rorschach Test, open to whichever interpretation each member of the audience cares to get out of it. Is it about how we all eventually wind up donning masks and false identities as a means of escaping the crushing monotony of our daily lives? Or is it about how we use such masks to avoid showing ourselves and the world-at-large who we really are? Or is it a dissertation on the nature of art and the artist, or on the changing nature of movie making in an era in which the camera has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life, available to anyone and everyone at all times? Who knows, and, frankly, who really cares? In terms of execution, Carax lacks the light hand and delicate touch of a Luis Bunuel from his late French period. "Holy Motors," on the other hand, is redundant and, at times, downright unpleasant, and much too impressed with its own cleverness to be of much interest to any but the most esoteric-minded of viewers. But the Paris locales are nice.
It's going to be difficult to keep this short.One of the darlings of the 2012 festival circuit, Leos Carax's Holy Motors delivers a pure cinematic experience designed to confront and challenge our understanding of the art form at every level. At the risk of over-simplifying a film that is anything but simple, Holy Motors is a film about the cinema as it stands today, and the deft ways in which Carax explores various aspects of his subject, whether addressing film- makers themselves, we the audience, or even the debate over physical versus digital media, are so rich and dense that it is impossible to absorb it all after a single viewing. As such it is sure to alienate and infuriate perhaps the majority of viewers, yet those who find themselves swept up in the abstract beauty of it all are in for an inspiring, enlightening, and at times overwhelming two hours.Holy Motors follows a day in the life of Monsieur Oscar (a mind-boggling Denis Lavant), an actor whose roles seem to take place out in the real world rather than on the stage or screen. As Oscar is ferried from one assignment to the next by his faithful limousine driver Céline (Edith Scob), so too does writer-director Carax transport us to his next discussion point. Each surreal vignette is presented without much in the way of explanation, and Carax refuses to hold the hand of the audience, instead offering viewers the chance to piece the film together themselves. Similarly, Lavant's remarkable performance can turn without warning, shifting the entire film's tone from tragic to comical at a moment's notice, further disorienting the audience. While some of Oscar's 'roles' have illuminating punchlines to ease our understanding, the majority are much more conceptual, and will demand repeat viewings to unpack before Carax's intentions for the piece as a whole will become clear, if they ever will.In a year where chatter surrounding huge tent-pole releases is choking social media and online communities, Holy Motors is the film that most deserves to be discussed, and debates about the film amongst cinéastes are likely already in full swing. While the audience who will really connect with the film is going to be comparatively small, nothing has offered this much to chew on for some time, and its value to those who appreciate it will only increase over time. Holy Motors cannot really be approached effectively in a brief review such as this, as it's not exactly an easy film to recommend or not given that each individual could potentially take something different from seeing it. But for those seeking a respite from the mindlessness of blockbuster season, seeing Holy Motors is a no-brainer. Carax almost forces the audience into an intellectual tug-of-war without ever feeling like he is talking down to us, rather that he wants us to reconsider the world of cinema, and not least of all our own place in it.tinribs27.wordpress.com
The criticism I'm hearing most about "Holy Motors" is that it's about nothing. That it means nothing. That they - the unhappy viewer - needs more from their movies than random events strewn together without logic. As if the road to nowhere is not interesting in and of itself to them. It makes me wonder, why don't we expect our concept of narrative to be challenged more in the movies we consume? Why don't we put forth as much effort in confronting art, as the artist has put forth in confronting us? "Holy Motors" is, to me, an act of filmic hypnosis. It made the cinema lover in me immediately and deeply happy from frame one (and not just because it references so much cinema of the past and critiques trends in the cinema of the present). I appreciate that film is not simply just another way of telling a story. Film is painting with light. It features human beings at play. It is design and photography and fashion and imagination. Of all the things cinema embraces... story is just a single element. So how did it become the MOST important element? Or, even more baffling to me, when did our idea of story itself become so tepid? The story in "Holy Motors" is writ large. It scans like a modern myth. Like the oldest stories the human race tells. It features improbable and fantastical things happening along a journey. Its protagonist is a modern Ulysses trekking through the strange and fabled land of human experience, always searching for home. It is the only story ever told. And yet, again and again I hear people say that the movie has no narrative. No character they can connect to. No meaning.Just because director Leos Carax is playful and tenuous with "meaning" doesn't mean it's not there. This is a film that is both about the drudgery and the exhilaration of creating for a living. It follows a day in the life of an artist. An artist always on the move. Sometimes that artist is tired, sometimes inspired, sometimes longing, sometimes exactly in the right place at the right time.A friend I saw it with was bored. I still can't even understand how that's possible. Here's a movie in which anything can happen. In which any image can be juxtaposed with any other. In which the central architecture is not some obscuring three-act structure built out of a tired overplayed premise, but instead, is a careening litany of virtually every possible premise available. It readily teeters from overindulgent spectacle to tiny truth and back again as it explores, but never fusses over, the role of new technology in cinema, complications of identity, the strange job of acting for a living and so much more... Most importantly though, the movie is about being on the job. The job of being human. Doing the work of being alive. And we, the viewer, we work too. We work for meaning in the dark of the theater. We work to help fashion the story. To find the true character at the center of the experience. To understand where the human heart falls in all this flailing, anything-goes madness.Life is work. Art is work. Observing is work. Isn't that beautiful?"Cinema is a territory. It exists outside of movies. It's a place I live in. It's a way of seeing things, of experiencing life. But making films, that's supposed to be a profession." - Leos Carax
This film is intensely strange and profoundly beautiful. It will also stay with you and make you think for awhile after viewing (if you let it). Even for the sheer beauty of the shots, which combine the technical precision of someone who truly understands lighting and optics with the poetic abstraction of a surrealist painting, this film is worth watching. The images themselves are compelling, and you see things that are even just visually fascinating (for instance, the black on black shooting for the motion-capture sequence). The film does not make sense in the straight-forward and explicit ways that audiences might anticipate from a film narrative. I even exclaimed during certain parts of the film, "That can't happen!" or "That doesn't make sense!" Regardless, there is an undertone to this film that is striking, intense, and that feels really valuable. It addresses the multiplicity of modes and forms with which people can exhibit or express themselves in the world and begs the question of what, then, remains constant -- is there really any unifying perspective? And what happens to this perspective as the moment of death encroaches? I would be thrilled to discuss this film in an open forum with others who were open to really imploring it because I definitely feel that there is a lot there to explore and ponder. Lastly, I will argue that despite its wackiness, this film is thoroughly entertaining. Even when it may elude you, I suspect you won't be "bored" per-say, but maybe just give up on it. I know that a lot of reviewers of this film had criticized those who raved about it for being overly pretentious. There is absolutely nothing pretentious about enjoying art that is really strange or non-sensical to others. Finding beauty or love in something and enjoying it is always a lovely and inspired reaction for anyone to have to anything, regardless of how others feel about it.
Keep thinking. That's all you got to do to enjoy this movie. If you're unaware, it's predictable that you will not be able to keep up with Carax. He sends us into a sinister, dark Paris which features the typical sights, but nevertheless is eerily empty. It is a Paris from the eyes of a blind man, who opens the doors to a cinema for us in a great overture.Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) is not the kind of character who would be considered "stereotype". On the other hand, the roles Monsieur Oscar has to play are classically "stereotype":1st: The Politician 2nd: The Beggar 3rd: The Motion Capture Artist 4th: The Lunatic 5th: The Killer 6th: The Killed 7th: The Vagabond 8th: The Killer 9th: The Killed 10th: The dying old Man 11th: The melodramatic Lover 12th: The LoserWhy does he play these characters? In a linear explanation, it is said that Monsieur Oscar is an actor. Sure - otherwise he would not die and resurrect again and again, otherwise there would be more tumult around him kidnapping a famous model. Cameras have become tiny over the years, they are not visible anymore. "Holy Motors" works as a film within a film, especially the idea that our lives work the same way (different roles, different people, loneliness, dissatisfaction) is intriguing. However, there is more to "Holy Motors". The blind man in the cinema, who is played by Carax, for example (I know Carax always wears sunglasses. But remember the blind artist in "Les Amants du Pont Neuf". There's something to it). It is him who imagines all those splendid, heroic and visually unique characters. And is Leos Carax' vision a parable to mankind (we're helpless, we're driven, we're mad, we're vagabonds, we're lovers - we're actors)? Less radically said: All those different shades are within us. Then there's a comment to media: Where are the cameras? Everywhere. I think, the most important conversation takes place between M. Oscar and "his daughter" (?) and reveals another possible interpretation, maybe the overall message of "Holy Motors". The conversation: The daughter was ashamed of herself and did not dance at a party. Embarrassed of this, she did not tell her dad the truth. Consequently, he had to punish her. M. Oscar's punishment is that the girl must be herself and be happy with it, something he seemingly never could manage. Something we must not give up trying.
We follow a day in the life of Monsieur Oscar being driven around Paris in a white stretch limo by Céline (his driver and secretary), who ferries him around from one 'appointment' to another. To get full enjoyment from this film stop there and watch it. Anything else you read may spoil or confuse and may not be entirely accurate.For those intrigued to know more... Each one of Oscar's appointments could be played as its own short film. We realise that the limo is full of masks, make-up and costumes for Oscar to change his appearance to fulfil his role at each appointment. Throughout the film he changes his character about ten times to be different people, these include an old beggar woman, a powerful business man, a dying millionaire, a murderer, a kidnapper, a CGI snake, an angry uncle and husband to a chimp family. The film doesn't explain what or why each of these appointments are carried out although the audience is given a few hints to form their own conclusions. However 'why' is really not the point here, accepting that he just does makes the experience much more enjoyable. It's simply amazing to watch our character step into a completely different role and make it convincing. The argument he has with his young niece (if it's actually his young niece) is sheer brilliance, but somewhat disturbing at the same time. The character is convincing but it's not clear what is real and what isn't. This is all down to Denis Lavant as our main character and Leos Carax for some superb direction. In addition we are treated to some short but touching set pieces by Eva Mendes and Kylie.This is essentially an art-house film, but unlike unlike other such films this is full of comedy, some subtle and some proper laugh-out-loud moments. Meaning it never takes itself too seriously and never talks down to the audience. The audience is definitely a needed extension to this film, especially if you allow yourself to be drawn in and experience the journey.This is certainly very Lynchian and recommended for any fans of his work. After leaving the cinema I was still very caught-up in the world that Carax had created. I had the same feeling after watching Inland Empire and to a certain extent Cosmopolis.I tend to be a harsh critic, but I really can't think of anything I didn't like. Kylie dropped in a song which could have been cringe-worthy, but actually worked well. Even the talking limos were there as comedy value rather than to annoy. As for plot holes, not only would it be impossible to find one, but also rather pointless as this film goes beyond that conventional way of thinking.This is art done well; more please!
"Holy Motors" begins with Monsieur Oscar (Denis Levant), a middle-aged Parisian man, in the back of a functionally tricked-out limousine. His assistant/driver hands him a folder, the first of today's jobs, and he begins to transform himself into an old woman. Out on the street, Oscar passes himself off as a poor, begging, old woman, conning the passers- by. But is it really a con if he doesn't get any money?That is just one of many questions that can go through one's head as you attempt to follow this film. And just one of the many unanswered questions that becomes increasingly frustrating the further you get through this film. "Holy Motors" has been described as a day in the life of a con-man. Too bad he's not a con-man. The second and third segments, involving Oscar in a luminescent, body movement/sexual performance and then infiltrating a model's photo-shoot as a crazy man, make it clear that Oscar is in fact a street performer/actor/hit-man. But apparently only those who like and "get" this film will see how he's an actor. That's the type of pretentiousness this film promotes.Each segment is unrelated, connected only by Oscar transforming himself for his next job in the back of his limousine; which makes the majority of the film completely pointless. At one point, we are supposed to care for Oscar (who knows when that connection occurred) because one segment features Oscar with a similar street performer/actor, presumably a former love interest. In this segment they sing a song called "Who Were We When We Were Who We Were?" I think that type of verbose nonsense speaks for itself.The make-up work actually was quite phenomenal; visually, Oscar was truly a different person in each segment. Story-wise, Oscar was a different person in each segment, which makes the film extremely non-cohesive. At the end, the film pretends that they presented ideas about the future of society, the isolated nature of individuals, and the life of an actor, but there wasn't a single coherent idea in that film. It was all very meaningless.