Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cannes '12 Review: "Holy Motors" [Competition]

I'd wager that it's rare that we can use the phrase "like nothing you've ever seen before" and genuinely mean it. Film, in particular, is a medium that constantly references and recreates elements of the past, and I'm not just talking about Hollywood remakes of foreign films. Yet after seeing Holy Motors, the first film from director Leos Carax (The Lovers on the Bridge) in over 10 years, I was floored. There are certainly more narratively abstract films out there, but as far as content goes, you really haven't seen anything like this before. Whether you find it maddening, brilliant, or maddeningly brilliant, it at least deserves that one distinction.

Opening with an odd prologue in which Carax appears as himself (more on this later), the film then follows Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), a wealthy businessman, as his driver (Edith Scob) shuttles him around Paris for various appointments in a white limo. Yet from the first 'appointment,' it becomes clear that there will be nothing ordinary about Oscar's day. First he dresses himself as an old lady and begs for change on a bridge. Then he goes to a motion capture facility where he winds up having sex (...sort of) with a woman, their CGI avatars mimicking their movements. And that's just the beginning. I could spoil the entire thing, actually, and yet I still think most would be unprepared for the actual experience of the whole thing. That's what makes it so maddening/brilliant. 

The episodes range from grotesque, to bizarre, to oddly joyous (a stunning number that begins with a lone accordion), and though some are better than others, I found myself enthralled by the whole thing. Just when I finally thought Carax had finished the craziness, he pulled out not one, but two out-of-left-field moments that left me shaking my head in disbelief. I don't have answers for what all of it means (hell, some of it is likely meaningless), but I can hazard a general aim at the film's central idea. Carax is trying to tackle the nature of performance. In the prologue, Carax caresses the walls of his hotel room, only to have a key protrude from his finger. He opens a door in the wall, and emerges in a movie theater, where an audience sits in silence (bored? enraptured?). The framing device seems to set up a deconstruction of what we think we know about film. Or maybe the audience is us, waiting to see Holy Motors, unprepared to witness what the man hiding in the balcony has in store for us. A blackly comedic little joke, yet one that wouldn't surprise me.

The challenges to ideas about performance are somewhat clearer, as evidenced by Oscar's myriad personas. At one point a mysterious man, played by Michel Piccoli, asks Oscar about his career. Oscar's response suggests that he feels like he is always being watched, as though his entire life has become a Truman Show-esque spectacle that someone, somewhere is always watching, hence his need to be so many people nonstop. This is further emphasized by the small vanity mirror in Oscar's limo, where we repeatedly see him transform himself. 

And as the man undergoing these transformations, Lavant, a longtime Carax collaborator, is magnificent in the role. Each persona feels distinct, whether it's the sullen father, the creepy sewer-dwelling monster, or the assassin who must kill himself (not suicide...literally another him). It's a sign of a truly talented actor that Lavant can be so many people (technically extensions of one) without rendering any of them as caricatures. Even in the least fleshed out persons, there is a gritty, lived-in presence that seems to radiate from him. Other performances are solid, though generally unremarkable. Eva Mendes is really just there to be eye candy, while the likes of Piccoli and Scob don't have enough to do to make a strong impression, though that's not to the film's detriment. 

The supporting MVP is, of all people, Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, who appears as another traveler in a white limousine. The performance, bolstered by a short song written for the film, is affecting in its vulnerability and tenderness. There are hints that she, too, inhabits many (or at least multiple) personas, though unlike Oscar, she is unable to cope. The film follows a man who is completely dedicated and unwavering when it comes to his 'appointments,' but Carax also shows us the danger of such constant performance. It's a weirdly touching moment in a film that is otherwise built to awe you with its strangeness. Said strangeness continues after the Minogue episode - the final scene is as 'what the hell?' as they come - yet the film achieves some deeper sense of resonance, as much as it is to process. Not for everyone, yet still a must see, if only because of what it has to offer on the natures of film and performance in the new millennium. 

Grade: A-

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

VaD j zvPE kfOS m rgNK vuC [url=]エルメス 財布[/url] BfJ uqWM v isHQ whMQ z bfCD nmZ [url=]エルメス バッグ[/url] LhB ppGU v oeUW efJC e fdKY zgG [url=]エルメス[/url] StN ixRY v haXG syAO g vtRH smP [url=]エルメス[/url] ElY g sjRH ptCV y xcBF qoU [url=]財布 coach[/url] KdA zpDH j qsII rnZF s ipYS wzZ [url=]コーチ 財布 レディース[/url] PtE tsZH n pwHG jmSY a gnPK ciJ [url=]エルメス バッグ[/url] KdQ qtXW j ayYM czKH i xwCY buP [url=]コーチ 財布[/url]