Holy Motors

Holy Motors ★★★★

After falling in love with Mauvais Sang, I was eager to dive into the rest of Leos Carax's filmography, and I couldn't resist returning to the enigmatic Holy Motors. It's a film I saw half of on Netflix back in 2013 or 2014 at a friend's house, before having to leave. Only last year did I finally watch it all, and it left me feeling mixed emotions. I'm a little sad to report that mixed emotions is still where I ended up this time around.

I 100% love this film in theory. It's an excellent concept to propel a film - man has 9 mysterious appointments, that dodge explanation, and at the very least, we get to see a bunch of "short films" featuring the unearthly chameleon that is Denis Lavant. What we can gather, at least I'm pretty confident, is that this is some new form of entertainment. Art has always been a reflection of life, so at some point it'd make sense for life to start imitating art. This isn't exactly a "new" concept, but Carax employs it in a fascinating way that feels fresh and original.

A common problem I've been noticing in many of the films I've been watching lately, is the imbalance of the idea. Either the first, or second half is amazing, while the other leaves more to be desired. Unfortunately, Holy Motors was no exception. Everything before L'Entracte is a dazzling masterpiece; cinema at its purest form. Everything after L'Entracte, while still good, or even great (usually in theory though), it leaves a LOT more to be desired. L'Enteracte feels like the finale of something special, but it is the halfway point (obviously).

The scene with Lavant and his daughter he picked up at the party is easily the weakest segment. Because it's so fractal in it's narrative structure it's [nearly] impossible to emotionally connect to what's happening in the scene. There's even a shift in tone halfway through this particular segment once the truth is revealed, which only makes it more… Blah. It just feels long, and meandering without purpose. Again in theory I like it, because I think it fits into the greater thematic concept (which I'll touch on in a second), but the execution falls flat. When he's playing the assassin and victim simultaneously, again, it's amazing in concept, but there's no tension, or exciting action, and the segment kind of just comes and goes. And I KNOW I'm in the minority, but I think the musical segment is overrated as hell. It didn't get an emotional reaction from me anytime I saw it, I think the biggest problem is that it feels out-of-place, the music/melody is a little stagnant, and the lyrics are too direct. It's a bold choice, and I respect it, but again, execution was off. As far as pre-Enteracte scenes go, I couldn’t tell you which segment is my favorite, because they are all equally incredibly for very different reasons.

What I have been able to derive in it's grander meanings, and seeing Mauvais Sang helped immensely, is that this is in essence about Carax himself. Sure it's also about the digitization of society, and the disconnect that continues to grow between all of us due to technology (as well as a pretty on-the-nose examination of film), but it's also Carax's fantasies, and reflections, being played out in front of us. Denis Lavant has played three characters named Alex in previous Carax films, and in this one he is Mr. Oscar. Leo Carax's name is an anagram for his REAL name, Alex Oscar. To say he's indulgent, would be putting it lightly, but at least he transfers that indulgence into something artistic, with multiple layers that you could dissect forever (probably). So these are either ways of Carax processing aspects of his own life, or just the movies he sees in his head (he played the mysterious man in the opening segment, which sets-up the movies of our dreams concept).

It's visually striking through its entirety; Digital hasn't looked so cool.

Also, DENIS LAVANT. I've been trying to drop his name as much as possible because he deserves it. No matter how I feel about individual segments, or the film as a whole, Denis Lavant indisputably gives one of the greatest performances of all time... all 9 of them. Or 12? or 11? I don't even know. The man can do anything and it fills me with such a giddy joy inside; I feel like my 8 year old self watching Die Hard for the first time every time I see him on screen. This is the definition of commitment people. Anyone who wants to act should probably have to watch this movie.

In the end, it's an incredible experience, yet a flawed film. I think anyone who considers themselves a cinephile should see this film. I think if there was a more equalized pacing of the segments it would have flowed better. If they were all the same length, or close to it at least. There is just an imbalanced flow throughout, and it leaves me desiring more. But I know this isn't the last time I'll be watching Holy Motors, and maybe more love will grow when I return.

This is the highest 4/5 I can give. Just the smallest smidge away from being a 4.5. So close.

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