Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Elise L'Homeau, Jeanne Disson, Michel Piccoli and Leos Carax.
I get excited and very jumpy in my heart when i hear about a filmmaker trying to explore the world of film making, does what he feels like doing even if its wacky or downright insane and when someone actually realizes how far a person can go with their imagination and use cinema in such interesting ways to deliver their vision on-screen. I might not know Leos Carax as a filmmaker (except for Pola X which i remember watching long time ago) but i was happy at his return. He made his last movie in 1999 and now he is back with a bang with a movie that got very enthusiastic response at the Cannes and felt like it would win. A lot has changed since the last time Carax made a movie i am sure, he felt about making a movie for the people who got lost making movies just for the sake of money and not realizing how they can use it for its pure purpose. He made this movie to poke fun, satirize, criticize, present an opinion on the drastic change in the techniques of film making and acting. He made it to show how he sees these trends, how he feels about them and to answer very bluntly yet profoundly the question most of us have about cinema these days, Is Cinema dead?
Now Holy Motors is not your usual movie, it is completely unorthodox as far as the usual narrative structure in movies go, it is insane, weird, bonkers, surreal and quite frankly out of this world. Carax takes inspiration from filmmakers such as Bunuel and Lynch while making a movie that feel every bit to have come out of Carax's own mind because it has a very unique feel for a surreal movie if you see it that way. This is the most interesting and mindblowingly original movie release in years and i was blown by its sheer cinematic orgasmic power, the rush you feel every now and then watching these absurd, vivid and trippy images. Movie begins with a very unusual scene where we see a character that is played by Leos Carax himself as i read because at the time i was watching, i couldn't exactly tell if it was Denis Lavant or someone else. That character is known as "Le Dormeur", i don't know what that means exactly. He wakes up, gets up from his bed and slowly makes his way towards the wall. He locates a secret door, opens its with a key which is there on his middle finger of his right hand and opens it up. Somehow that door takes him to a movie theater that is packed full of audiences watching a movie and get this, they are all sleeping. For a moment it looked like they had no eyes for some reason but they were asleep each one of them. While the character himself was wearing shades, he has a dog too. Moment later, another giant black dog wanders among them. What did that scene meant? because immediately after it, the actual movie starts. Is Carax playing this character himself somehow meant that he has made a movie that he is trying to show us but we in this age of pop culture and destructive habits aren't really able to see his vision? or is it about his bafflement with us on cinema overall? The audience that is shown definitely signifies us.
I don't think I'll be able to present you a synopsis of this movie but I'll definitely end up describing the whole movie so if you haven't seen it yet, then read no further and enjoy the wonderful piece of art without me spoiling it for you. So we basically follow Mr. Oscar (Lavant) and his secretary/Chauffeur Celine (Scob) through the wonderful city of Paris in his white limousine as he goes from one "appointment" to the other. The appointments appears to be real life performances of very odd characters in bizarre situations where Mr Oscar performs not on stage but in real world among us. His limousine is full of props, make ups, prosthetics etc which he uses as according to which task he has next to perform. He seems to be working for a company of course which we are unaware of, the tasks are presented to him in the form of files that he gets on the back seat. I know, it all sounds weird but that is how it is. Now i will try to briefly describe and then present my thoughts on each of his appointments. The first one is actually of a very powerful businessman which we immediately see after the bizarre opening. He is shown leaving his amazing villa while saying goodbye to his wife and children. He appears old and as he gets in the limousine, he continues the act as he is on the phone talking about the business stuff. His next task which is a very brief one is of dressing as an old gypsy woman and begging for money. It makes no sense, what he do but that is exactly how it is and we as an audience have to make peace with it and just see if for what it is without asking Why or what? That is not a tough thing for me to do because i simply embrace filmmakers who make movies for the sole purpose of art and its celebration rather than money and entertainment. I love it when a filmmaker makes me uncomfortable or challenges me with his work, its not fun when i get to see a typical movie.
One of the most stunning sequences comes when Oscar has to be a motion capture artist. He performs various stunts, fighting techniques using his fists and feet, sticks and weapons and also does some aerobatics. Carax shows all this very brilliantly in some slow motion . Suddenly a girl walks into the room and she is dressed in the same skin tight dress but its red. She walks directly into the room as her character. The way she walks is like this sexy siren we often see in action movies. Both Oscar and the girl does this simulated sex scene in one of the most unique way which we later see on screen is used for two snakes having sex. That is a highly erotic and sensual sequence and quite literally spellbinding. But that is not all, the most wackiest sequence in this movie comes with Oscar's next appointment. He gets to be this weird ugly looking monster like man who lives in the sewers and eats pretty much everything like flowers, hairs etc. He walks through a graveyard and if you clearly see, there are website addresses written on the graves. He walks towards a photo shoot that is happening, he looks at the beautiful Kay M. (Mendes) and takes her with him in the underground sewer. Whats could be more fun than watching an ugly looking man eat Eva Mendes' hair who then dresses her up in a burqa, gets naked, have an erection and asks her to sing lullaby to her as he goes to sleep in her lap? His next roles if i can just name them consists of a gangster who kills people, the man he is supposed to kill, a sad lonely dying millionaire who has last moments with his young niece, a disappointed father and towards the end he gets to play a man whose family consists of three Chimpanzees.
There is also another sequence in between where Oscar reluctantly does something which makes absolutely no sense, you can't tell if it was his appointment or something he did deliberately. One of the most haunting and melancholic moments in the movie comes where Kylie Minogue sings a deeply sad song. The character she plays seems to have a history with Oscar and she seems to be doing the same job as he does. They walk with each other through an abandoned shopping mall like two long lost lovers meeting after years and asking why did they had to fall apart? It is a pleasure to watch these segments as they feel like short movies in this one long two hour feature film. Leos Carax presents us every type of movie that there is, a musical, a sci-fi movie, a gangster flick, a melodrama, surreal film, fantasy movie, bizarre movie and so on. One thing that really impressed me throughout the movie was how well Denis Lavant was able to transform into these so many characters just like that. He is utterly convincing, unrecognizable and just masterful. Lavant's performance is extraordinary, epic and truly matches with the sheer perfection of this movie. In most of the scenes he talks, the different emotions that we see on his face are truly incredible. Thanks to him, we are somewhat able to differentiate and sort between his true emotions as a person and his emotions as the characters he is playing. Oscar is someone who have had many troubles in his life, he is lonely and very broken. Carax doesn't show that, we don't see his back story but it is only Lavant who is somehow able to let his Oscar peek through the different masks he wear. A case could be made there that Carax tries to show us how we have to play different roles in our entire life or much much fake identities we play with in our daily life. A person can have different persona you see depending on the situations.
What is even more fun about this movie is that it is fully open to interpretations. Not just the entire movie but even parts of it have more than one possible explanations. Holy Motors is never off putting, its mad and unbelievably strange but it has a certain flow in it and its never uneven (its uneven only in terms of the different segments one after another) but the entire movie i was able to watch it without getting bored or uninterested. I was fully absorbed in this movie throughout, i could constantly see and go through every bit of tiniest detail during the movie which is why i could almost grasp what Carax was trying to tell us. Holy Motors isn't always quite serious though, there are some really subtle jokes and literal laugh out loud moments in it. The moment when the dying uncle suddenly gets out of his bed as if nothing was wrong. That is where Oscar ends his performance and he tells the girl that he has another appointment to go to. The sudden shift from a lengthy scene where an old man was dying, its was quite tragic to see and now all of a sudden Carax makes us laugh with poking fun at his own premise of his movie. This is genius, its vulgar sometimes, quite often it speaks tons about the harsh realities of life, it presents us with dazzling images of the beauty of cinema, pokes jokes in the most weirdest darkly comic way. Life is a screen, we perform different roles in life. Cinema is where you get to see different people perform the realities and fantasies of life. The characters are taken somewhat from real life. We often search for our real identity throughout our life and quite often fake things up. People often gets fed up of the constant brutality in their life, they look for a new face and a new persona. Our performances effects other people in our life and the movies we see somewhat have profound effect on us. There is a hilarious scene with which the movie ends, all the limousines are parked in one place called Holy Motors. The cars suddenly starts speaking to one another.
No matter in what way you look at this movie, what you get from it, how you feel during the movie and how much you take it away with you, one thing is for sure and its that Holy Motors has to be the best movie of the year. So far for me it is, maybe one of the best movies of the decade. Its cerebral, quite imaginative full of exhilarating moments that feels magical, thought provoking, ugly, scary and mesmerizing all at the same time. Holy Motors for some (like me) would be quite intoxicating, i couldn't get my head off the movie even after three days. I am constantly thinking about those moments that feels quite bizarre but strangely compelling and brilliant. I am thinking about how much a filmmaker can do with this art if they have the strength and dedication to pull it off. I am thinking about the possibilities we can have in our life in the endless and constant expanding universe and future. It all comes down to whether you let yourself become a victim of the life you are being exposed to or you take things in your own hands and be your own creator. Life vs Cinema or Cinema then vs Cinema now or simply the lush and endless world of movies or the endless colorful life that a person has, this movie is able to deliver more than one possibility with its uniqueness. I could have wrote two separate reviews for them, that's how deeply symbolic and excellently thought provoking movie this is. Holy Motors is the most essential movie of the year that should be seen and embraced for both Carax and Lavant and the world they create.