Today I watched Leos Carax’ Holy Motors (2012)
Enigmatic in the extreme, holy Motors follows a day in the life of Mr. Oscar as he makes his way around Paris attending to various ‘appointments.’ These appointments are performances of varying types, some logical and others strange and dream like. Some of his appointments have him playing out stages of life like that of an old dying man or of the father of a young girl, others have him playing out professions such as a motion capture performer, a hitman, and an accordionist. Stranger yet he also takes on the role of a sewer dwelling madman, and two people whom he kills, yes he kills himself, or at least one role he plays kills another.
To me this film seems to be questioning the realism of fictional characters, even the most complex of which can be summed up in a few sentences. Instead the film presents Mr. Oscar’s roles as being disparate parts of a whole, presenting a real human as someone who plays many parts through life. A person is not a character, a person is complex and contradictory. In the context of film there is also some discussion of the place of actors in the modern world, with all the omnipotent surveillance in our modern world are we not all actors in someone else’s voyeuristic movie? And with the cameras being everywhere and invisible, is there ever a time when an actor is not acting?
These themes come to life with beautiful photography and incredibly creative effects. The film is a feast for the eyes as it just pops with colour and fantastic locations are made the most of. The music is also incredibly poignant and it accentuates the imagery and action perfectly. One of my favorite scenes is an interlude in which a whole big band comes out with accordions and more to serenade the audience for a spell.
This film relies heavily upon dream logic and surrealism but not in an overtly in-your-face way, at least not for most of the scenes. Actions and sequences flow into one another in a cohesive way that only becomes truly illogical when thought about, the definition of dream logic. As such the film felt very easy to watch despite the complex subject matter. Denis Lavant delivers an intensely poignant performance that covers many elements of being human in a world that is always watching. This film is both poignant and amusing in equal measure and I would easily recommend it to any who like their films to be audacious and daring. 5/5