Friday, March 22, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Holy Motors (2012) ***½

NR, 115 min.
Director/Writer: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Levant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Elise Lhomeau, Jeanne Disson, Michel Piccoli

If you’ve heard anything about Leos Carax’s movie “Holy Motors” than you know that you will either love it or hate it. There seems to be no in-between on this one. If you are not a fan of the avant garde, then chances are you’ll fall on the hate it side of this coin. I am not a fan of the avant garde for the sake of avant garde alone. I don’t like my art to be weird just for the sake of being weird. I don’t even necessarily like weird art with a purpose just because it has a purpose. I like things that speak to me, and on its ultra weird level “Holy Motors” spoke to me.

Actually, I’m a little wary of calling the film “ultra weird” or even weird to a certain degree, because on some indefinable level I “get it.” Since I get it, it doesn’t really seem that weird to me. For those who don’t get it, it will be like trying to decipher a language that no one has ever spoken before.

With a film like this you can never tell for sure, and that’s part of its design; but I think it’s really about the power of cinema on more levels than just the viewing of it. It’s about seeing cinema and living cinema and the lives of those who make cinema and the characters they play including their real life roles in the process. Perhaps that far too complex explanation is too simple an examination of it, but it’s a place to start.

The film follows a man who goes off to work in a limousine. He waves goodbye to his family and gets in the limo. He has a day full of appointments, with a file accompanying each one. In the back of his limo he studies the files and then pulls out a dressing mirror and begins to apply makeup. Throughout the day he plays many different roles. Each appointment seems to encompass a different aspect of the storytelling elements of cinema. An early appointment has him in a suit with reflective circles all over it, a motion capture performance. Many of his dramatic interludes are erotic and violent. The actor Denis Levant even reprises one of his roles from another film. The man monster known as Merde appeared in the anthology movie “Tokyo!” in the segment also directed by Carax.  If you are familiar with that film, then you’ll have an idea in what world this one takes place.

I can certainly understand how this material wouldn’t work for many, or even most, audiences. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it didn’t work for me were I in a different state of mind when I watched it. But as it was, I was mesmerized by the uniqueness of the images, the shattering of expectations, and the relentless work performed by this man who travels through the streets of Paris everyday enacting strangeness and humanity. Just make sure you don’t get too close to Merde’s little stick shift. That thing looks like it could do some damage despite it’s size. Eva Mendes is braver than me.

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