Recently, I've become aware that certain films are able to transcend the medium by being completely self-assured in their atmospheres…
From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the shadowy life of a mystic man named Monsieur Oscar.
We follow 24 hours in the life of a being moving from life to life like a cold and solitary assassin moving from hit to hit. In each of these interwoven lives, the being possesses an entirely distinct identity: sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes youthful, sometimes old. By turns murderer, beggar, company chairman, monstrous creature, worker, family man.
Holy Motors, the critics darling of 2012, is as strange, befuddling and pretentious as the gushing reviews suggested it would be. Leos Carax’ first feature film in over a decade is a willfully odd odyssey; a picaresque story of cinema itself and an ode to performance. The committed, certifiable and chameleon-like Denis Lavant plays Mr. Oscar, a man who travels around Paris in a limousine transforming himself into a range of strikingly different characters for reasons left largely up to the audience to decide.
It is a film made for, and by, a particular type of film fan; one steeped in the history of film who enjoys partaking in a game of spot the movie reference. It’s an indulgent, self-satisfied…
To say that Holy Motors has been praised would be the understatement of the century. It has been discussed and interpreted more than probably any other movie this year. Furthermore, seemingly every major critic loves it. It has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, an 84 on Metacritic, and my boy Film Crit Hulk placed it at the very top of his 2012 list, ahead of Django Unchained, The Master, Looper, and several other terrific titles. However, there's something none of those critics will tell you, and I'm here to give it to you straight: the key to understanding Holy Motors is knowing that Holy Motors SUCKS.
Now, before you prejudge this as another Cosmopolis-style "Dear Fuckers" letter, hear me out,…
A film that, needless to say, has a number of correct subjective interpretations directly proportional to the amount of viewers that saw it with a high attention span and an open mind, in my humble opinion, can be more easily dissected if:
I. It is seen passively.
“I'd rather people feel a film before understanding it."
- Robert Bresson
“We think too much and feel too little."
- Charles Chaplin.
Some things do not have to make sense. The mind can reast peacefully at night if it was not capable of rationalizing all stimula in one day, even if it seems impossible to several people. Some things just deserve to be felt.
II. The "appointments" topic is taken as the…
Q1. Was this art over substance?
Q2. Was there a point?
Q3. What genre is it?
Q4. Did I like it?
Q5. Did I hate it?
A1-5. I honestly don't fucking know!
This almost feels like a surreal version of the Mediaeval play Everyman. In that play Everyman (representing Man) meets up with a host of allegorical characters representing Life. Through these encounters Everyman learns how to reach salvation, thus completing Life's circle.
If I proceed in this train if thought, Lavant's Oscar is all those allegorical characters rolled up into one creature, a physical manifestation of life, showing us, the Everyman, the state of affairs. And apparently Life is getting old. It is having great difficulty dealing with the rapid, shallow progress we are making and basically has increasing difficulty providing us with our overly demanding urges. Life's own cycle seems to be running towards its end, heading towards its own…
Thesis - The movie is an ode to the human body as the most cinematic of objects.
1. The old video that starts the film.
2. The scene trumpeting the humans performing mo cap over the final product itself.
3. An array of physically showy performances - ogre, beggar, killer, musician, singer, grumpy father.
The "Holy Motors" of the title and conclusion, then, is a metaphor for the engine that makes cinema hum - the human body. Carax asks that in our rush to the next cinematic object, we not fall out of love with the original cinematic object.
Anyone with any film wherewithal should probably be worried about the state of the industry. Records are topped, regularly, and compromising single film ambitions for franchise continuity no longer guarantees a blow to a film's quality, sure. But at the same time these blockbusters are of such a crowd-pleasing variety that the scope of what the modern audience is willing to sit through has been drastically reduced. Oscar films - their own can of worms, really - are held up as the films to aspire to. Meanwhile big blockbusters see their flaws excused because of the terms of engagement they meet audiences on (look no further than recent record-breaker Jurassic World as proof of this). Audience's intolerance with anything that…
I'm not entirely sure what it was that I just watched. There were some choice scenes that I thought best explained what I thought this film was supposed to be about, namely the father and daughter conversation, but I could be wrong. This was just far too much art, not enough substance for my tastes.
If you think of your day as a series of 'appointments' and then start picking away at and parceling out the overarching forces that have been at work since the day you were born scheduling said meetings (Capitalism, Religion, Love, Fate) then this story isn't nearly the psychedelic mind fuck it appears to be on paper. Granted, it's still a psychedelic mind fuck. Don't get me wrong. Just less psychedelic and more fucky. I guess.
3.5/5.0 = Great
Where does one begin when discussing Holy Motors? It's arguably impossible to aptly summarize the scope of Leos Carax's vision on paper. Holy Motors is a viciously delightful vehicle, constantly in motion, providing audiences with what could best be described as visual cameos, either tying in as references to Carax's previous work or the existence of cinema as an entity within itself.
This unorthodox road movie exudes a visceral sense of uninhibited creative intellect upon its viewer, exponentially snowballing into what ultimately becomes a series of absolutely brilliant vignettes of visual lyricism. Each sequence presents a uniquely poetic cinematic concept, either introduced through the films ingenious visual style or the abstract sound design.
Having said that, this…
I just discovered that (1) it might be cool to dislike Holy Motors and, more surprising to me, (2) it might be warranted to dislike it. This puts me in a defensive posture, unfortunately. Depending on one's point of view, I was either overwhelmed by this film or I got drunk on it. But in a nutshell, here's my defense of it. A bunch of its detractors (not unlike most of its supporters) seem to assume an auteur at the source of this film, a director who had some kind of vision, executed that vision, and did or didn't have something interesting to say through that vision. For once, I don't care about that. I don't even particularly care about…
Best viewed through corrective perplexiglass.
What the fuck did I just watch? Holy Motors is one of the most bizarre movies I've ever. This movie is scene after scene of strangeness. I'm not sure what the underlying message of this movie is. Be yourself? Don't eat flowers? I dunno this movie didn't do it for me. It was well made I'll give it that.
Ceaselessly, unspeakably brilliant; so loaded with meaning and insight and beauty. I need to watch it again immediately but from the first viewing, I'm in love, and deeply ashamed that I didn't get around to it sooner. Flat-out astonishing.
I don't think I can rate this movie. This was so weird and I didn't get any of this messages but I truly enjoyed it. Very rare experience.
Many favorites, as well as a small handful of films that I don't care for... in no particular order (1960-2014).
Originally a list made prior to Cannes 2014, now updated every mid-April.
This is every Palme d'Or nominee since the…