Holy Motors

Holy Motors ★★★★½

Denis Lavant 100% plays accordion, nobody can convince me otherwise. 

My head tells me this is a five; the cinematography, directing, acting, music and especially production design are probably some of the best this decade has to offer. That being said, I often felt that there was an emotional connect that I was missing out on. I think this emotional uncertainty is definitely intentional to some extent but I still felt that there was a thread relating to Oscar’s discontent with being a traveling performer that was meant to be more pronounced and it was not; this is fine though because on an intellectual level there is so much to chew on. Over everything else, Carax is excercising his power as a storyteller on the audience—we are along for the ride (pun intended). Every scene and the framework of the film itself is completely saturated with self-reflexivity which leads me to my final nitpick of the film. 

For the most part, the self-reflexive moments are breathtaking but I think the reason that’s true is because we are expecting some sort of payoff later on. We do get some payoff of course but in the end Carax presents previous moments of self-reflexivity as a red-herring—as the last scene shatters our largely uninhibited involvement with what happens on screen throughout the entire film (a hilarious scene but one that has me conflicted nonetheless). 

The credits roll after that hilarious last line and to my mind the movie has ended—it’s really not an ending that will leave you speechless through the credits. I pulled out my phone during the sequence and to my surprise there was a post-credits scene (the spectators staring at the screen). I don’t think this scene is justified because the end only breaks whatever mesmerized state we might have been in earlier. 

Of course, there are other lenses to look at this bookending of imagery. At the beginning, we certainly are mesmerized so maybe these two shots are meant as a juxtaposition of the spectator’s state at the beginning and end of the film; maybe implying that in the end, the apparatus is rendered meaningless—a bag of tricks (just like Oscar’s many outfits and personas). This nihilistic lens would seem to justify the last scene but a good portion of Carax’s audience may not be privy to that last shot because they had already left the theater. Maybe he doesn’t care, that’s cool I guess. I have to let this one stew in my mind for a bit longer before I can completely collect my thoughts on it. For now, I really, really liked it but felt that there were just a few too many loose ends and undercuts by Carax for me to fall head over heels immediately after my first viewing. The more I write though, the more I realize that there is so much for me to think over on this which certainly is the mark of a special film (it’s certainly unique and very strange). I just wish there were more films with balls like this.

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