Holy Motors – Leos Carax – 2012


So far, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is my favorite film of the year. It’s a film drunk on the possibilities of cinema, and often exists only for the sake of the viewer. Each moment is a performance there for your drama, your laughter, your wonder, your delight, and your sadness. It drifts from theme to theme seamlessly as star Denis Lavant gives the performance of a lifetime as Mr. Oscar.

As with other films that have yet to be released, I don’t want to discuss the text here as much as the approach. The film follows a man through a series of impossibly related events and goes off of rails even that would raise even David Lynch’s eyebrow. Death and resurrection, songs and suicide, flowers and mo-cap foreplay all find a home in Holy Motors.

And the film really, gives us a tip in the opening scene where a man leaves his bed and enters a door painted like a forest. On the other side of that door is a theater where people are watching a film. The once sleeping man is bewildered, looking upon the images he is lost.

Thus begins Holy Motors. Wake up says Carax. Look in here, past the woods at something meaningful. Look past every performance in every guise. Look at how each moment in life given context can be meaningful, or rendered vacuous or fabricated.

Remember the scene in Mullholland Dr. where Lynch has Naomi Watts read the audition scene terribly, then without cutting away, he has her read it again, immediately and we are sucked in by the realism despite it’s fabrication. We know we are even supposed to be in an audition. That’s what Holy Motors is like.

It constantly calls to attention you are watching a film, yet forces you to be affected through numerous unrelated contexts through sheer power of cinema. Through image and sound, performance and music, Carax bewitches the viewer who hangs on every turn, drunk on the idea that in this movie, truly anything can happen. Throw all convention out the window.

To return to Mullholland Dr., Holy Motors is like if an entire movie were made out of the “Silencio” scene. In this moment Naomi Watts realizes the dream she is living in. Holy Motors shows us the dream, but never pulls the rug out from under us. The dream continues, morphs, transforms and transforms the viewer in return. It acts as a beautiful mirror, reflecting absurdity and truth, tragedy and triumph, and ultimately a picture of a universe as unpredictable as any.

I sincerely hope that any and all adventurous filmgoers partake in Holy Motors. My only regret concerning this absurd masterpiece is that I’ll never see it again for the first time.


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