I'm not sure what to think. I've given it a few days and I've not tried to force myself to think about it, but I can't help but go back to Holy Motors and try to figure out exactly what the hell I watched. Opening with a crowded theater watching a film we soon see a man who turns out to be the director himself Leos Carax as he breaks through a wall covered in wallpaper painted with bare trees. Breaking through he wanders into the balcony of the theater while we hear audio that is either from the film playing onscreen or is simply meant to elicit a memory from the individual audience member. We never see the screen, thus we are unaware that if what comes next is what this specific audience is watching or something else. The film, after only a few minutes in cuts to a large, secluded house as a man we come to know as Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) exits the elaborate estate and enters a limo driven by Celine (Edith Scob). These are essentially the only characters we see consistently in the film and from this point on we are challenged to understand the meaning, if there is any, of Holy Motors. As Oscar goes from appointment to appointment changing his appearance, his attitude, his way of life it only becomes more vague as to what Carax is trying to say. I understand the actions, I believe I grasp the premise, but why? The why of this whole thing is what I am unsure of and two days after watching the film am still unable to come up with any answers for. It would be a lie to say the film isn't fascinating for it is relentless in it's attempts to engage, but it provides no answers to the point I found it hard to care about the questions it raises.

Monsieur Merde (Denis Lavant) goes to many different appointments throughout Holy Motors.
The appointments Oscar takes throughout the day range from impersonating an old beggar woman on the streets to putting on a motion capture outfit and performing several different stunts and emulating sex with a woman. In his loudest venture of the day he dresses and makes himself a monster of sorts that wanders through the streets of Paris as he defiles everything in his path and comes across Eva Mendes as a model and does the same to her. There are moments of visually entrancing filmmaking and this is truly the only reason I felt taken in by the movie at certain moments. The more I think about now, as I write this and am forced to reflect on what I saw, I am made even more frustrated by the fact someone can so easily throw such a mix of short films together and create a feature that is supposed then taken to have deep meaning but instead is open to so much interpretation that there is not even the slightest chance of guessing the correct, honest intentions of the storyteller. In saying that there is any real meaning to be found as a whole is risky. Each individual vignette has a solid purpose, a way to take away a message from each and that in itself is engaging and fine but when you string them all together is there any purpose in this presentation? There doesn't seem to be. The only idea that seems to add any weight to this reason is to go back to that audience in the beginning. That this is a commentary on cinema. That is easy to take away from the motion capture scene and could certainly be interpreted in many ways as to what the directors attitude toward special effects is, but is there any correlation to this idea in the rest of the stories? Hard to say and not enough room to expand on what could likely fill a book of its own.

This monster in which Lavant disguises himself as and parades around eating flowers and kidnapping Eva Mendes is the segment you will recognize most from the trailers and is the one that continues to stand out in my mind the most after screening the film. The misshapen old man dressed in nothing but a small green suit, a knotted red mane and finger and toe nails extending far past their designated areas has come to be referred to as Monsieur Merde and is an absolute piece of work that gives us all the reason in the world to be engaged by what is taking place on screen, but then it goes nowhere. Merde kidnaps the model played by Mendes, takes her underground and there they smoke, he gets naked and he licks her armpit. It ends and we are left with little more than an image and a loss for words at what exactly that is supposed to mean or how it was meant to be interpreted. This conclusion again brings us around to the multiple meanings multiple people will likely draw from such source material. To each his own should have been the tagline. From here Mr. Oscar comes back to a familiar reality of a father speaking with his daughter then onto another seemingly meaningless message in which he walks into a warehouse, kills a man and then makes him up to look like himself. The man in turn retaliates and again, a visual is created to evoke some type of response but I fail to understand it and I'm not sure anyone, even with the largest pool of knowledge to pull from, might necessarily be able to convince me of what the connecting strand for each of these are. The film instead comes off as an exercise in weirdness for the sole sake of being weird. There is no real purpose behind the strange that is consistently pushed further and further and at the same time distanced itself from me as a viewer.

A Supermodel (Eva Mendes) is kidnapped by Monsieur Merde and taken underground. What?
I'm all for metaphoric messages and artistic representation through the medium of film, especially when at the core of its purpose it has something to do with the love of cinema, but I can't say that I enjoyed the experience that is Holy Motors. There is simply something too sporadic about it, something too unfocused that did not appeal to my senses and I am usually good with this type of weird, artsy stuff. I embrace it and find the reason, the symbolism, the voice of the piece. I have no problem doing any of this and with such a negative review of a film so many seem to be celebrating I will likely be condemned of not knowing what I need to know to be writing about film. That I simply do not "get" what the director is trying to say and that I am not well versed enough to understand the many themes and philosophical meanderings that are explored here, but if the film was to accomplish anything in its freedom of creativity it would likely have been to leave an impression of any kind on its audience and Holy Motors left me with nothing. I felt more bewildered than filled with wonder; I was engaged most when Kylie Minogue appeared briefly and let out a musical number which was somewhat fantastic but then it ends and again, I am left to wonder what exactly is the point of Oscar's assignments and what are we to take from them? It's all kind of weird and surreal and it follows no rules in the way of plot or characters but the wide open way in which you can interpret all feels more pretentious than it does honest. In that regard alone, I can't understand what all the fuss is about.


1 comment:

  1. I really liked your review especially since I wholeheartedly agree. An collection of short films that start out interesting and deteriorate into nothing. Brilliant idea, horrible execution.