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Holy Motors

Alright, I’m still a bit lost after two rounds with this exhilarating project—but it’s getting clearer. And it’s never less than absolutely fascinating. Does any film expression of this ilk owe me 100% clarity on the first go-round? I think not. Where’s the fun in knowing exactly where everything is going all the time? Or for that matter, not having to fire up your gray matter a bit to find purpose in why an auteur director barreled down a certain path? I very much enjoyed “Holy Motors” after my first watch…and I also knew immediately I needed to see it again. More aspects fell into place that second time…but there will definitely be a third look. Probably a fourth and fifth too. It’s easy to see why “Holy Motors” became an instant critical favorite when released in 2012. Sight & Sound, Cahiers du Cinema, The Village Voice…all placing Leos Carax’s latest either at the top of last year’s heap or very close to it. Even Walter Chaw—the critic I most trust—called it the #1 motion picture of last year. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m holding out hope. Hey, it took me some time to realize that not only was “2001: A Space Odyssey” the best film of 1968, but one of the greatest movies of all time. “Blue Velvet” took some work too, but I had to hang with that one when no less than Woody Allen called it “easily the best American film” of 1986(btw, anyone that knows me personally is aware how wild I was for Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” from the get-go in 2001…I hope to have an entire feature on my favorite film of the previous decade in the not-too-distant future). The Woodman was right, it was. You know what this over reliance on instant gratification gives you in mass entertainment? It gives you “Argo” winning the Oscar for Best Picture of the year. And we’re smarter than that…I just don’t know if more people will ever work up the energy enough again to prove it. I doubt it. “Holy Motors” will never be accepted by the masses. Those that happen by or risk to venture will most likely just label it “weird”. If that’s the case—I say give me more weird. I’d rather watch “Holy Motors” a dozen times than sit through “Oz the Great and Powerful” once. I realize I’m close to alone in that respect.

I am not about to try to present a plot synopsis for “Holy Motors”, although I believe there is a mostly discernible narrative line. And what was in the water last summer with two separate projects from each side of the pond taking place inside a limousine for half their runtime? At least Leos Carax attempts to provide the answer that evaded Robert Pattinson’s Eric Packer character from David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” as to “where all the limos go at night”. But you’ll have to watch “Holy Motors” in its entirety to find out. Confession: this is my initial foray into Leos Carax territory. I’ve been aware of 1999’s “Pola X”, but I’ve never experienced it for myself. That was Carax’s last feature, a full thirteen years prior to his most recent full-length venture—save for the segment entitled “Merde” in the 2008 anthology from a trio of maverick helmers called “Tokyo!”. That information is of importance because the sewer-dwelling semi-human creature of “Merde”(also portrayed by Denis Lavant)makes an appearance in “Holy Motors” as well. And yes—it is shameful that Denis Lavant was completely overlooked by Oscar and other awards presentations for his chameleon work in “Motors”. He’s amazing. And Edith Scob as driver Celine is pretty bloody marvelous too. But it’s Lavant’s show as he constantly morphs into a parade of characters in this meditation on film, aging and life in all its absurdity. He’s not only Monsieur Merde careening through the passageways of the Pere Lachaise cemetery after emerging from underground(before making off with a model portrayed by Eva Mendes!), but he’s also a family man, an elderly woman, a dying father and a gangster and his doppelgänger. And is that chanteuse Kylie Minogue in a shattering musical performance in a dilapidated building? Indeed, it is. The limo serves as office, rest area and transition room for Lavant’s eclectic menagerie. You’ll get some full frontal nudity and two full hard-ons(one virtual, one not?). And almost without question—the wildest ride you’ll experience in a cinema or on DVD for some time to come. Bonus points for spotting the famous film references. Oh hell…double points just for attempting this thrilling concoction. And again, I’m not quite there with “Holy Motors” being the best film of 2012, just yet. But give me some time. It’s definitely in the realm of possibility. And I’ll be sure to let you know if it happens.   Grade: A- (for now, anyway)


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