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IdleRich
01-10-2012, 04:40 PM
Weirdest thing I've seen in the cinema for a long while - I loved the gasps of surprise when he bit that girl's fingers off - but what was it about? Everyone keeps saying "It's about cinema" and maybe it is but is that all that there is to it? I'm not convinced.

baboon2004
01-10-2012, 07:54 PM
Was it any good apart form the weirdness? Carax is meant to have been the tolerable alternative to (ugh) Besson and (yikes) Jeunet in 80s/90s French cinema, isn't he? Don't really know much about him tbh, although he seems to have directed Les Amants du Pont-Neuf.

Edit: Wikipedia tells me that these three were the prime directors of Cinema du Look, style over substance, which seems to match.

DannyL
02-10-2012, 05:28 PM
Weirdest thing I've seen in the cinema for a long while - I loved the gasps of surprise when he bit that girl's fingers off - but what was it about? Everyone keeps saying "It's about cinema" and maybe it is but is that all that there is to it? I'm not convinced.

Well, what is it about then and why are you not convinced? There's so so so much stuff that means it is clearly about film - performance, the motion capture scene, the extracts from Muybridge, the beginning ... what are you offering as an alternative hypothesis?

DannyL
02-10-2012, 05:29 PM
And Baboon, I liked it but I think it might lend itself to over discussion. Stop reading this thread and everything else about it and just go and see it.

Immryr
02-10-2012, 07:37 PM
thanks for making this thread, i had no idea leos carax had made a new film! i really love his boy meets girl loose trilogy. wasn't as keen on pola x, but i'll definitely be going to see this.

rubberdingyrapids
02-10-2012, 11:18 PM
cant decide what i think about it.

i was expecting it to be more visceral and weirder than it actually was based on pieces i read about the reactions it inspired in cannes. and it was interesting, nicely unsettling, it looked brilliant, lots of cool/weird imagery (love the cinema one early on) and it had two great scenes that packed big emotional punches (with the daughter) but a lot of it was just.... a bit strange but not really much more. should have been more to it imo. did love the very last scene in the car lot though, which was prob the only scene where something carax believed in was actually stated pretty explicitly. i thought there were lots of interesting things in there, but it felt like there just wasnt... enough. so a bit indulgent. but i like that such a strange film can still get such high profile press/space even if it isnt quite as deserving as old lynch or von trier etc. or maybe its just at a diff place on the scale of cinematic oddness.

i think part of it is def about cinema, and obv about cinema no longer being rooted in reflecting/documenting/capturing reality, but he didnt push it far enough for me. or maybe i just like things a bit obvious.

either way it makes a good 'films set in limos' double bill if you watch it with cosmopolis.

IdleRich
05-10-2012, 01:27 PM
"Well, what is it about then and why are you not convinced? There's so so so much stuff that means it is clearly about film - performance, the motion capture scene, the extracts from Muybridge, the beginning ... what are you offering as an alternative hypothesis?"
I'm not saying that it's not about cinema, I'm saying that that answer doesn't go far enough, I'd like to go further into what it's about. I was just disappointed to hear someone saying "oh it's about cinema" and then moving on to the next thing as though it were all figured out. What does it mean for a film to be about cinema? Does that simply describe a film in which many scenes reference or parody or relate to other films? Is Carax just saying that he likes films, if so I find that a bit disappointing after two hours of craziness. Why call it Holy Motors? Was there not some kind of two-tier reality in which those who went around in the mysterious limos (and their even more mysterious limos) were separate from and in fact above the non-acting members of society? I wondered if they represented some kind of superior being - maybe servants of some kind of God (hence the holy)... but how could this fit with the theory? Even if it's not this then how does the cinema theory explain this part of the film?
Some of the links I heard seem a bit tenuous as well, did the guy in the green suit really represent Charlie Chaplin? I'm not convinced by that. Some kind of homage going on with Elizabeth Scob wearing virtually the same mask as she did in Eyes Without A Face for sure.

DannyL
07-10-2012, 12:20 AM
I've said to you via email about how I think there's possible other readings ("spiritual" for want of a better word) that fit right in - Iv'e no idea if this was Carax's intention or just my projection but, this is a strength of the film, it's a rich text, open to multiple readings. I don't think there's some kind of fixed relationship between the limo occupants and the rest of society either - this open-endedness is part of what makes the film strong. You seem to be saying that the film should create a coherent, logical, internal universe (a closed set of references), while for me one of the film's strengths is that it doesn't do this. An example would be when Kylie's character takes a plunge off the roof - is she "really" dead? Why does Oscar react as he does if she's not? This dual suggestion/ambiguity is great, one of the things that fascinated me.

Re: Chaplin. The guy in the green suit is apparently called "Monsieur Merde" and appeared in an earlier Carax short. I don't think he's representing Chaplin in a fixed way, but to me, he seemed to capture something about the physical nature of acting and performance, of which Chaplin is one of the archetypes. This particularly stood out for me in contrast with the motion capture scene that (IIRC) preceded it.

I'd say a weakness of the film was that one had to be familiar with a lot of the filmic references to "get it" - I guess you could level this critique at a lot of post modern art - while reference spotting is fun, it makes me wonder what sort of integrity the film has without this kind of gaming.

IdleRich
08-10-2012, 12:56 PM
"You seem to be saying that the film should create a coherent, logical, internal universe (a closed set of references)"
Not at all, I was just saying that I wanted further exploration, that's why I created a thread rather than sticking it in the generic film threads.
Monsieur Merde


"Merde"
Directed by Léos Carax.
Merde (French for "shit") is the name given to an unkempt, gibberish-spewing subterranean creature of the Tokyo sewers, played by Denis Lavant, who rises from the underground lair where he dwells to attack unsuspecting locals in increasingly brazen and terrifying ways: he steals cash and cigarettes from passersby, frightens old women and salaciously licks schoolgirls, resulting in a televised media frenzy that creates mounting hysteria among the Tokyo populace. After discovering an arsenal of hand grenades in his underground lair, Merde slips into full-on assault mode, hurling the munitions at random citizens and creating a Godzilla-like atmosphere of urban terror, which the media promptly laps up and reflects back to its equally voracious television audience. Enter pompous French magistrate Maître Voland (Jean-François Balmer) — a dead ringer for the sewer creature's gnarled and twisted demeanor — who arrives in Tokyo to represent Merde's inevitable televised trial, claiming to be one of only three in the world able to speak his client's unintelligible language. The media circus mounts as lawyer defends client in a surreal court of law hungry for a satisfying resolution. Merde is tried, convicted and sentenced to death — until justice takes an unexpected turn.
Interesting. Certainly sounds like the same character. I would like to check that film but I'm not that optimistic it would tell me a lot more about Holy Motors.


"I'd say a weakness of the film was that one had to be familiar with a lot of the filmic references to "get it" - I guess you could level this critique at a lot of post modern art - while reference spotting is fun, it makes me wonder what sort of integrity the film has without this kind of gaming."
I'm not certain that that's a weakness - if you can't ever build on an assumed knowledge base then you're always going to be starting again in everything you do.

DannyL
08-10-2012, 01:03 PM
Not at all, I was just saying that I wanted further exploration, that's why I created a thread rather than sticking it in the generic film threads.
Monsieur Merde


Interesting. Certainly sounds like the same character. I would like to check that film but I'm not that optimistic it would tell me a lot more about Holy Motors.


I'm not certain that that's a weakness - if you can't ever build on an assumed knowledge base then you're always going to be starting again in everything you do.

Merde also reminded me of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and pretty obviously there's a classic Beauty & the Beast motif going on there - shades of King Kong and a million other films. I thought one of the most fascinating images in the film was when he was scurrying through the sewers, past the long queues of people pushing - what? Shopping trolleys? Carts of junk? Implied some strange undergroud economy, moving along out of the light.

IdleRich
08-10-2012, 02:25 PM
Yes definitely. Although there is nothing so simple as the happy ending of the beast turning out to actually be a beautiful prince. And the actual beauty seems kinda indifferent to the whole thing in a particularly strange way.
Also, both of those tales are surely much more famous as books/stories than they are as films.

rubberdingyrapids
08-10-2012, 03:39 PM
from some interviews with carax:


"I suppose I was trying to describe the experience of being alive in the internet world. The different lives we are able to live. The fatigue of being oneself. We all get a little tired of being ourselves sometimes. The answer is to reinvent yourself, but how do you do that and what is the cost?" He twirls his cigarette. "I know that's true for me. I feel as though I've exhausted a few lives already."


“Holy Motors” was born of my incapacity to carry out several
projects, all of them in another language and another country. They all ran into the
same two obstacles: casting and cash. Fed up with not being able to film, I used
“Merde”, which had been commissioned in Japan, as inspiration. I commissioned
myself to make a project under the same conditions, but in France - come up with
an inexpensive film, quickly, for a pre-selected actor.
All of it made possible by digital cameras, which I despise (they are imposing
themselves or being imposed on us), but which seem to reassure everyone.


Leos Carax: There’s never any initial idea or intention behind a film, but rather
a couple of images and feelings that I splice together.
For “Holy Motors”, one of the images I had in mind was of these stretch
limousines that have appeared in the last few years. I first saw them in America
and now every Sunday in my neighborhood in Paris for Chinese weddings.
They’re completely in tune with our times - both showy and tacky. They look
good from the outside, but inside there’s the same sad feeling as in a whores’
hotel. They still touch me, though. They’re outdated, like the old futurist toys of
the past. I think they mark the end of an era, the era of large, visible machines.
These cars very soon became the heart of the film - its motor, if I may put it that
way. I imagined them as long vessels carrying humans on their final journeys,
their final assignments.
The film is therefore a form of science fiction, in which humans, beasts and
machines are on the verge of extinction - “sacred motors” linked together by a
common fate and solidarity, slaves to an increasingly virtual world. A world from
which visible machines, real experiences and actions are gradually disappearing.

Lucia Lanigan
12-10-2012, 01:11 AM
Hah! So it's sort of about everything but not really, but really about film, which is also everything, but not really? Thanks PoMo (and/or unemployment).

I enjoyed it greatly, but I struggled to remember a thing about it an hour after leaving the cinema. I clocked what I thought were the cinematic references but they didn't have much resonance beyond that recognition. I think it serves as a useful illustration of the difference between what is surreal, and what is only spectacular. Nothing wrong with the latter, but comparisons with Bunuel and blah blah blah don't hold for me.

Although the sense of everyone performing a role as part of the bigger scheme, I liked. A nice summary of work there, albeit one I probably just invented on his behalf.

Idlerich: "I was just disappointed to hear someone saying "oh it's about cinema" and then moving on to the next thing as though it were all figured out."

Exactly! I read this month's Sight & Sound: this is about the size of what they say, as if innertexchooalidy is the pinnacle of human cultural achievement. Films often refer to other films; just because this gives a reviewer something to write about, doesn't mean the film in question is great. In music, people tend to use such references as a put-down; why not in film and art?

rubberdingyrapids
12-10-2012, 05:45 PM
people tend to use such references as a put-down; why not in film and art?

http://mubi.com/topics/is-it-more-acceptable-to-be-unoriginal-in-the-modern-age?page=1#comment_795539

S&S love anything to do with intertextuality. (they also love films that = nap time but n/m). but i think S&S love holy motors as its more than just showing someone is an scene-quoting cinephile but that theyre making a comment on the state/future of cinema itself (im guilty of this too, i love to hear from people/things/films declaring the death of cinema).

i love holy motors but more in principle than for anything the film actually did itself. the things i liked most about it are the things i totally forgot until i read some reviews of it (the www headstones, the end dialogue between the cars, i.e. where where carax's message is wittiest). as well as all the cinephile-baiting subtext, its basically kind of a mockery/attack on the modern concept of reality/non reality (so partly an extension of all the virtual reality fears of the 90s - lawnmower man vs holy motors), paean to old technology, mockery/partial embrace of new technology (eg the fetishy scene of the pixellated screen, like taraninto purposely fucking up prints to give it that old battered grindhouse look).