Death Is Good, But There Is No Love: Holy Motors (2012)

Holy Motors is most certainly the one film that I longed to see for a better part of 2012 after hearing mentions of it on a few of my favorite blogs and podcasts, not to mention as it began receiving awards by various critics associations.  Until viewing it last night, I had only heard descriptions about it, or seen very brief clips at one point or another, always more than enough to pique my interests and seek it out as soon as possible, fortunately, a friend had a copy that they passed along to me and I was able to digest the visual feast that is this film beyond simply looking at the poster, which is its own work of art. I am somewhat on board with the guys at Battleship Pretension when they claim that the film is far from a perfect film, but manages to go about its visual stylings with such audacity and vision that it cannot, and should not, be overlooked, even going so far as to make one of the top ten lists of two critics who I find to have some of the most refined and specific taste in the realm of film criticism.  Holy Motors is as much a sobering reflection on the state of performance in film, as it is a pondering of human existence on a larger scale.  It is a rare thing for a film to engage with the magnitude of 2001: A Space Odyssey philosophically, even more unusual that it manages to engage with the dialogue with any degree of success or validity, in the same vein as Irreversible, Holy Motors, from director Leos Carax, is yet another film from 2012 to make viewers really consider the way in which they consume movies, as well as the larger concept of truth and its tenuous relationship with what we have come to assume to be reality.  I found many of the episodes, as it is really the only way to describe how this film unfolds, to be absolutely mesmerizing, and even the weaker moments of the film exist on a plain so far above much of its competition that it exists as a bit of cinematic magic.  If it were not enough to simply praise the movie for being a visual experience, the performances in this film are more than perfect and Denis Lavant, in particular, brings one of his best delivered set of characters, since first coming to my attention as a delusional Charlie Chaplin impersonator in Harmony Korine's most "normal" film Mister Lonely.

Holy Motors has a plot, all be it a very vague and nearly incomprehensible one, but I assure you it exists some where in the nearly two hour time frame.  Needless to say the film mainly focuses on a man known as Oscar (Denis Lavant) who dons various make-up and wardrobe styles and travels around Paris, on assignments, yet the film chooses to open with an individual known as Le Demour (Leos Carax) who enters a theater only to view a crowd watching, what I have been led to believe is King Vidor's The Crowd, instantly, and magnificently making the film exist within the metacinematic, something that is extended when the narrative begins to follow Oscar in more depth as he engages in his various assignments, all of which apparently hearken back to moments in the history of cinema, whether they be the intensely intimate portrayal of him pretending to be a homeless elderly woman, clearly an evocation Soviet cinema of the early 20th century, or the shock political cinema of Passolini, which occurs when Oscar is assigned to play a grotesque man that kidnaps a model, played rather stoically by Eva Mendes, only to take her into a cave and strip naked, not to have sex, but, instead; to eat her hair.  The film also takes on less artistically embraced elements of cinema, having a sequence pulled directly out of a gangster film, or one which results in a CGI-feuled sexual nightmare.  In one of the films most bizarre moments, Oscar reunites with what appears to be a former lover named Eva (Kylie Minogue) thus thrusting the film into the musical realm, only to return to the darkly dramatic within moments.  The various stories entwine as Oscar moves through Paris in a white limousine and it becomes considerably unclear as to what moments are indicative of his personal life and which depict his "job."  The narrative then takes a leap into the decidedly absurd when Oscar's final job places him at his own home, with his family, who for no explicable reason are a set of monkeys.  The narrative then focuses on Oscar's chauffeur Celine (Edith Scob) who returns the limo to a garage named after the film, and as she leaves the limo with other similar vehicles, the cars begin talking to one another, waxing philosophic about moss on stones, thus ending the film rather abruptly considering all the combined aspects.

I am not even going to proclaim to remotely comprehend exactly what Holy Motors is about, because like the previously mentioned 2001: A Space Odyssey, any singular proclamation about the film is to only focus on aspects and often fails to consider the filmic text as a whole.  Fortunately, Holy Motors in its episodic stylings affords a viewer the ability to pick singular moments as a point of reference, thus leading me to believe that it is a film about filmmaking, much in the same way as 8 1/2 or Stardust Memories, which arguably uses similar techniques, but in a far less dark manner.  I say this because Oscar constantly bemoans his performances, not because he does not appreciate the notion of acting, but because he seems utterly convinced that the often draining performances he delivers are falling on deaf ears, particularly as a result of a technological landscape that embraces minimalism.  In one of the films most poetic scenes, Oscar reflects on an era when filmmakers were distracted only by the heaviness of their camera, a masterful existentially absurdist statement, which proves to be the grounding for the entire film.  It is hard to call Holy Motors a welcoming film, but this previously mentioned scene seems to be Carax's way of saying that society is equally dark and for any film to suggest otherwise would be to betray the power of the medium and its ability to reflect reality to some degree, even if in the highly stylized nature of this film.  It makes me consider its relationship to some of  my other favorites of the year, particularly The Master, Take This Waltz and The Loneliest Planet, all of which use cinema to show the stark betrayals of humanity, as well as their ever so brief moments of triumph, never once allowing the viewer to assure comfort and self-fulfillment.  I find Holy Motors to be in the same vein as the highly introspective, but decidedly distancing cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, in so much that it allows viewers just enough familiarity to become invested, but reminds them that even in familiarity the senses can, and will, be quickly betrayed.

Key Scene:  The intermission scene is decidedly awesome and serves as an awesome mid-point for an excellent film.

Bluray, Bluray, Bluray...

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