Holy Motors opened yesterday at the Nuart in Los Angeles, as well as other cities in the US (click here). It’s a film I love and I’m on a mission to encourage Dangerous Minds’ readers to see this wonderful masterpiece. So, I’m re-posting a review I wrote a few months ago after seeing the movie at Fantastic Fest. Here goes:
Holy Motors screened several times during the fest and as a result a lot of people got to see it. A good thing for getting the word out on a film that is almost impossible to describe without waxing poetic. The most satisfying conversations I got into during FF were the ones in which people were trying to crack the Holy Motor code. While the film has an wonderful aura of mystery about it, the essence of the film is clear - it is a movie about the pleasures of seeing movies and making them. And part of the pleasure of the movies is having them fuck with your head. Holy Motors is a mindbender of a very rare sort. I include it among my favorites: Performance, El Topo and Enter The Void.
Synopsis (from the press release):
From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man…He seems to be playing roles, plunging headlong into each part – but where are the cameras? Monsieur Oscar is alone, accompanied only by Céline, the slender blonde woman behind the wheel of the vast engine that transports him through and around Paris. He’s like a conscientious assassin moving from hit to hit. In pursuit of the beautiful gesture, the mysterious driving force, the women and the ghosts of past lives. But where is his true home, his family, his rest?
When Holy Motors’ Mr. Oscar (the magical Denis Lavant) is asked why he does what he does, he replies that it’s for “the beauty of the act.” Director Leos Carax might reply similarly in describing why Holy Motors does what it does.
In his exhilarating new film, Carax seems to have tapped into cinema’s Akashic Record and brought it to Earth in distilled form. From the opening scene where Carax unlocks the door that opens onto the theater of his brain to the Amen choir of limousines at the end, Holy Motors is as pure as cinema gets. It is about the thing it is, not the thing it is about. It’s reference point is itself. Carax will pull any rug from under any scene to remind us that we are watching a movie and to glory in the artifice of it all. Holy Motors embraces the history of cinema like a drunken poet throwing his arms around the alphabet. The result is a mercurial mindfucker of a movie.
It’s been 13 years since Carax directed his last feature-length film, Pola X, and he’s returned to film making with the fervor of a man who has a lot to get out of his system. But like Holy Motors’ troll with the perpetual hard-on, Carax hasn’t shot his load recklessly or randomly. Carax is a Tantric Master fucking the sacred machine of his art with deep fluid strokes. He uses cinema like a particle generator creating a red hot beam of alchemical fire directed at the very center of the viewer’s pineal gland. His intent is to get you high and he does. He draws you to the screen like a moth is drawn to light. He draws you to the screen like a camera is drawn to a woman’s face, or the stars, in their sparkling suicidal glee, are drawn to blackness. He draws you to the screen with the precision of a Bunuelian razorblade tearing open the curtains of your eyes.
Carax has made a film he obviously had to make. He is getting at something deep within himself and he takes us with him - into a place where others have traveled and are traveling still: Bunuel, Cocteau, Kubrick, Muybridge, Jodorowsky, Noe, Argento, Tarantino, Beineix, Franju, Roeg, Lisberger, Melville, Bertolucci, Donen, Godard, Powell and Pressburger, Marker…He is navigating a road trip through cinema and we are riding in the catbird seat of his dream machine as delighted as children with our heads out the window and our hair wildly blowing in the wind.
One of many goose pimple-inducing moments in Holy Motors is this musical interlude, an accordion cover of R.L. Burnside’s “Let My Baby Ride.”