Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
France/Germany, 2012. Pierre Grise Productions, Theo Films, Pandora Filmproduktion, Arte France Cinema, WDR / Arte, Canal+, Centre National De La Cinematographie, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Region Ile-de-France, Procirep, Angoa-Agicoa, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Soficinéma 8, Wild Bunch. Screenplay by Leos Carax. Cinematography by Yves Cape, Caroline Champetier. Produced by Martine Marignac, Albert Prévost, Maurice Tinchant. Production Design by Florian Sanson. Costume Design by Anaïs Romand. Film Editing by Nelly Quettier. Cannes Film Festival 2012. New York Film Critics Awards 2012.
Leos Carax took thirteen years to release another feature after the disappointing reception of Pola X, and what he comes up with is the coolest, most inventive work of his career. His version of Mulholland Drive has Carax himself open the film by entering a dream-induced movie theatre, where the line between film and life no longer exists. The narrative is taken over by the director’s mainstay lead Denis Lavant, driven around Paris in a limousine by Edith Scob and taken to various “assignments”; his job, given to him one by one in case files, is to embody personalities and stories which he acts out in one before moving on to the next, some of them grim, mundane realities and others fantasies. It could be said that each one is Lavant visiting a different genre of film, among them science-fiction (a very cool dance between Lavant and a flexible, rubber-covered woman while both wear motion-capture sensors), gangster films, fairy tales (a monstrously made-up Lavant taking supermodel Eva Mendes below the earth a la Beauty and the Beast) and melodrama (as a dying old man being visited by his weeping daughter). The false, shallow experience of this melodramatic scene is followed directly, and possibly not coincidentally, by a genuinely touching sequence where Lavant meets with fellow “performer” Kylie Minogue, luminous and poignant as a lover from his past, who puts the film in the world of musicals by singing a Demy-esque number in the abandoned Samaritaine department store building. There are film references galore (Franju, Cocteau, Godard, the list goes on forever), but Carax is not immaturely winking at his audience with these quotations. This is a man deeply in love with an art form that is integral to his way of seeing the world, and Holy Motors is the result of examining the struggle in trying to discern not only the line between cinema and reality but the necessity of even having to determine that the line exists. It’s a relentless, unapologetic work of genius that has as many highs of beauty as it does moments of terrible grotesqueness, a mad and eccentric masterpiece that renews your faith in the ongoing vitality of the movies.