Saturday, September 22, 2012

Holy Motors

FR/DE © 2012 Pierre Grise Productions / arte France Cinéma / Théo Films / Pandora Filmproduktion / WDR/Arte. P: Martine Marignac, Albert Prévost, Maurice Tinchant. D+SC: Leos Carax. DP: Yves Cape, Caroline Champetier - shot digitally - post-production: Éclair Group - released on 2K DCP. PD: Florian Sanson. AD: Emmanuelle Cuillery. Cost: Anaïs Romand. Hair & makeup designer: Bernard Floch. VFX: Yoann Berger, Alexandre Bon. Cyber-creatures: check end credits. Datamoshing: check end credits. Étienne-Jules Marey footage: credited to La Cinémathèque française. S: Emmanuel Croset, Erwan Kerzanet. ED: Nelly Quettier. Casting: Elsa Pharaon. C: Denis Lavant (M. Oscar / Le banquier / La mendiante / L'OS de Motion-Capture / M. Merde / Le père / L'accordéoniste / Le tueur / Le tué / Le mourant / L'homme au foyer), Édith Scob (Céline the chauffeur), Eva Mendes (Kay M), Kylie Minogue (Eva Grace [Jean]), Elise Lhomeau (Léa [Elise]), Jeanne Disson (Angèle), Michel Piccoli (L'homme à la tache de vin), Leos Carax (Le dormeur / Voix Limousine [as LC] ), Nastya Golubeva Carax (La petite fille), Reda Oumouzoune (L'acrobate Mo-Cap), Zlata (La cyber-femme), Geoffrey Carey (Le photographe / Voix Limousine), Annabelle Dexter-Jones (L'assistante photographe). Loc: Paris, France. Language: French, English, Chinese. 115 min. 2K DCP from Wild Bunch with English subtitles viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki (Helsinki Film Festival), 22 September 2012.

Holy Motors is the name of the stretched limousine company in the movie. In the end, when the chauffeur (Édith Scob) has donned her Les Yeux sans visage mask, and all human being are gone, the limousines start a conversation in the deserted hall ("Rolling Stones: gather no moss").

A wonderful movie in the spirit of Jean Cocteau. M. Oscar the transforming man wakes up in an airport hotel room, walks against the invisible wind through a wallpaper forest into a crowded cinema. Everything is ready for a journey into one day and one night in Paris. Cocteau references also include La Belle et la Bête and an angel of death who resembles Maria Casarès in Orphée.

The ever-changing M. Oscar resembles the early supervillains and superheroes of French cinema such as Zigomar, Protéa, Judex, and Fantômas. I was also thinking about the thousand faces of Dr. Mabuse.

M. Oscar becomes a blind beggarwoman, a cyber creature in a motion capture hall, a hideous phantom of the sewers, a "normal father" who insults his daughter ("your punishment is to be you"), a ferocious thuggish assassin who executes his double,  a dying old man who meets his angel of death, and the husband of a chimpanzee family ("our life is about to change"). There is even an entr'acte where M. Oscar is the leader of an accordion band.

Memorable ideas: the message on the gravestone engravings: "visitez mon site" - the sewer creature eats funeral wreaths, banknotes and Eva Mendes' hair - "cameras used to be bigger than us, now they are smaller than our heads".

Two of the best movies of the year take place in stretched limousines, Cosmopolis and Holy Motors. In Holy Motors, the limo is the business office of M. Oscar but even more it is his dressing room. There is an electric fireplace in  M. Oscar's limo. There is a huge HD screen where M. Oscar can watch a digital version of the view through the windshield. There are aspects of video art in the distortions of the view.

The star guests shine through the absence of their spirit. Eva Mendes is gloriously vacant in the Beauty and the Beast episode. Kylie Minogue plays the suicidal Eva Grace in the deserted Samaritaine department store building after Oscar and Eva's limos have crashed in front of it ("we have 30 minutes to catch up 20 years").

It is a sympathetic tradition in the French cinema that film directors write lyrics for the songs in their own movies (Julien Duvivier, Jean Renoir, Jacques Demy, Henri Colpi). Here Leos Carax has written the lyrics for the song "Who Were We?" sung by Kylie Minogue.

Leos Carax rose to fame in the "cinéma du look" school of the 1980s often derided for superficiality. It coincided with the usually disastrous influence of the video clip phenonmenon.

Holy Motors is consciously a film about surfaces and masks. It is impossible to distill the themes of the movie in a discursive, rational way, but it is not a movie of empty effects, either. It is a modern dream journey in touch with deep undercurrents.

Holy Motors is a labour of love, a movie made with a sense of urgency, a movie about the cyber age which is also in touch with the origins of the art and the science of the moving images (the opening and closing Marey footage). It is an intriguing meta-film with a rich series of memorable images.

The digital look of the movie is appropriate to the subject.
"Who Were We?"
Lyrics by Leos Carax and Neil Hannon
Music by Neil Hannon
Orchestrated and arranged by Andrew Skeet
Performed by Kylie Minogue and Berlin Music Ensemble

"Funeral March (Adagio molto)"
from String Quartet No. 15 in E flat minor (Op. 144)
Written by Dmitri Shostakovich

Written by Gérard Manset

"Let My Baby Ride"
Written by R.L. Burnside and Tom Rothrock
Adapted by Doctor L, Elliot Simon and Quentin Auvray

"How Are You Getting Home?"
Written by Ron Mael
Performed by Sparks

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