Sunday, November 25, 2012

HOLY MOTORS (2012)

Written & Directed by Leos Carax


Where & When: Nuart Theater, West Los Angeles, CA. November 19, 2012  7:40PM



"Holy Motors" is the utterly strange, wildly confusing but quite fascinating visual wonder by French filmmaker, Leos Carax.  His previous work most certainly will not be familiar to the average American film-goer but even to the rest of the world, Carax may not be immediately recognized as this marks only his first film in thirteen years and only his fifth feature since his debut in 1986. According to Mr. Carax, a former film critic, it was not for a lack of trying but it's well known that it's always a challenge to get a project off the ground when you are a director who doesn't gravitate anywhere towards the conventional and conventional "Holy Motors" is not.

Denis Lavant, (who has appeared in four of Mr. Carax's films) plays Oscar whose work involves traveling throughout Paris to complete a day of  "assignments" that involves putting on elaborate make-up and costumes to become several different people. He is driven to each job in a white limo by his associate, Celine (Edith Scob, who does a brief nod to her role in the 1960 French horror classic, "Eyes Without A Face" near the end) as he first transforms in to a homeless woman begging on the street before turning into Mr. Merde, a grotesque sewer-dweller who will ravenously eat anything in front of his face, from a bouquet of flowers to human fingers. The creature is captivated by a fashion model (Eva Mendes) on a photo shoot before dragging her back to his lair. Oscar's other varied assignments include performing while wearing a motion-capture suit that features gun-play and sexually-charged acts with a female, leading a band of accordion players through a musical number and a chance encounter with another "worker" (Kylie Minogue) who may have been once romantically involved with Oscar. His final job has him returning to his family, which leads to a conclusion that is truly wacky and bizarre.

Mr. Carax's script appears to be elusive by design with the dialogue intended to only add to the riddle of what this all means but what is clear is that this a celebration of the art of performance and what hold everything together is the presence of the gifted, Mr. Lavant. Here, he is given the opportunity to use his rubbery, expressive face to dive deeply in to a multitude of characters while displaying a wide range of emotions from funny to touching to just plain weird with the actor more than capable of rising to this complicated challenge.

"Holy Motors" pays a bittersweet tribute to the moving image as it imaginatively combines classic cinematic elements with modern techniques that goes from a bloody revenge segment to a melancholy musical number with Ms Minogue breaking in to song. This all feels very much like a Gallic version of something that David Lynch would conjure up.

The surreal journey in "Holy Motors" leaves you dizzy and flustered but it also manages to sneak up on you, drawing you in to this dazzling fantasy that looks at life through the magical dream world of cinema and despite Mr. Carax's dark, oddball approach, his deep love of film shines through brightly.