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    This is the published version:       Marvell, Leon 2013, Holy motors, ArtsHub online, pp. 1‐3. Available from Deakin Research Online:    h...

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    This is the published version:       Marvell, Leon 2013, Holy motors, ArtsHub online, pp. 1‐3.

Available from Deakin Research Online: Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright owner. Copyright : 2013, Arts Hub Holdings Australia | the Australian arts portal

Holy Motors By Leon Marvell | Monday January 14 2013

Okay, here’s my incontrovertible, objective assessment: best movie, ever. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Leon has lost the plot. How can Holy Motors be the best movie ever made? How was this evaluation arrived at? Using what criteria? Alright, alright already. Just give me a few minutes of your time, and then you can make up your own mind. Holy Motors is the first film Leos Carax has made in 13 years. It seems almost impossible that the enfant terrible who made Boy Meets Girl (1984), Mauvais Sang (1986), the beautiful Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) and Pola X (1999) should have taken so long to produce this film, which may very well prove to be his swansong. As Carax recently noted in a rare interview, ‘From the age of 20-30 I made three films. From 30-40 I made one film. From 40-50 I made zero films. I’m 51. It’s not looking good.’ But as you have already surmised, if this is to be his last film, then this reviewer considers it to be his masterpiece. The film opens with a prologue that lets the viewer know that they should throw all expectations out the window. This is the film’s first virtue: it makes no compromises, and makes no excuses for its exorbitant vision and incontestable weirdness. I like that it a movie: exorbitant weirdness and a take-no-prisoners attitude. So, the prologue: a wide shot of a cinema audience in the darkness. We are facing them, and they all appear to have their eyes closed – they are dreaming. Cinema is a dream. To confirm this, we are next presented with a shot of a man in bed, and we hear the sounds of the ocean. The man arises; the cognoscenti will know that it is Carax himself. He approaches a wall in his cabin/hotel room and inserts his ring finger, which takes the form of a tubular silver key, a human-machine hybrid. The wall opens and Carax walks down a corridor that leads to the cinema we saw in the opening shot. He is up in the gods, looking down at the audience in the stalls below. A naked child can be seen toddling down the centre aisle. We then cut to a low shot of the centre aisle and see that the child has turned into a gigantic bloodhound, mooching towards the camera. The sounds of the sea increase in volume as we cut to the exterior of a very fancy house, shaped, art deco-style, like an ocean-going liner. A man leaves the house, his children and wife bidding him goodbye as he leaves for work. This is

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Monsieur Oscar, who is obviously rich and important as flunkies accompany him down the driveway until he arrives at a gigantic white stretch limo and greets his elegant chauffeur, Madame Céline, played by the eternal Edith Scob, who, at 75, looks otherworldly and damn sexy. Denis Lavant plays Monsieur Oscar, and Monsieur Oscar is Denis Lavant in Holy Motors. What does this mean? It means that the film constellates almost entirely around Lavant’s extraordinary performances within this movie. And he pulls off nine different roles here, none of them connected with the other, in a series of vignettes that Carax insists are representative of how we live now: in the fragmentary world of internet interaction, iPhone texting and disconnected relationships. Hermetically sealed inside the limo, Lavant (Leos Carax’s alter-ego really, as he has appeared in every one of Carax’s films) receives a brief from mysterious sources and then proceeds to don his makeup and wig, exiting onto the streets of Paris. When he emerges he is variously a blind woman begging on the Pont Alexandre; a stuntman/actor in a motion capture studio executing some extreme martial arts moves and making virtual love to a red latex clad contortionist; a sewer dwelling monster who abducts a beautiful model in the Père Lachaise cemetery; a hit-man who murders himself; a disconsolate father; a loving husband married to a chimpanzee and… well, I’m guessing you get the picture by now. There is an entr’acte (intermission) scene within all these tableaux vivants where Lavant and a bunch of musicians play a jump version of a R. L. Burnside rhythm and blues number on accordions. And halfway through the film Monsieur Oscar demands that Madame Céline bring the limo to a screeching stop as he frantically searches through a box of firearms. Grabbing a pistol, he leaps from the limousine and runs across the street wearing a horror movie version of a Spiderman mask: red cloth crisscrossed with barbed wire. He sees Monsieur Oscar (the original one, from the ocean liner house) sitting at an outdoor cafe with his flunkies. He shoots Monsieur Oscar dead and then is mowed down by the gunfire of Monsieur Oscar’s bodyguards, all the while screaming, ‘Aim for the genitals! Aim for the genitals!’ There is a wonderful interlude with Jean (Kylie Minogue) in the now derelict department store La Samaritaine (which was so important in Les Amants du Pont-Neuf), where Jean/Kylie sings a plaintive love song and then leaps to her death from the top of the building as Lavant/Monsieur Oscar rushes to his next appointment. The use of La Samaritaine as a location is one of several gestures not only towards Carax’s previous oeuvre, but to cinema itself. The most important gesture towards Carax’s work (more of a blatant index really) is Denis Lavant himself as the protean, chameleonic actor, Denis Lavant. Another is Lavant’s reprise of his role as Merde, the monster character he has played before in Carax’s contribution to the anthology film, Tokyo! (2008). Gestures towards the history of cinema itself include the brilliant and hilarious use of the theme music to Ishiru Honda’s Gojira (Godzilla, 1954) as Merde emerges from the sewers in the Père Lachaise, and Madame Céline securing a featureless mask to her face as she finally parks the white stretch limo for the night, a mask that is identical to the mask Scob wore in Franju’s Les Yeux sans Visage (1960). I am sorely tempted to sing the praises of every scene in this film, but that would inevitably transform this review into an encomium of grotesque proportions. Maybe I haven’t convinced you that Holy Motors is the best movie ever made – and of course this will only be the case for me until the next best movie ever made comes along – but hopefully I have convinced you that it may well be a

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contender when we finally have to tally up the history of cinema, come the end of the world as we know it. So what is the take home message of Holy Motors? I’m afraid you’ve got me there. Leos Carax says it is a science fiction film about where we are in the 21st century. Denis Lavant says it is about all the different roles we are daily required to play in the 21st century. I reckon it is a movie about art, and of two artists’ art in particular – Carax and Lavant’s. More likely it is a combination of all three assessments, plus a few others I have concluded but which I haven’t bothered to regale you with. Consequently I would strongly suggest that you do whatever you need to do to see this film and add your own interpretation. Do it tonight. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars Holy Motors Written and directed by Leos Carax With Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes France, 2012, 115 mins Available on DVD and Blu-ray from 18 January Icon Film Distribution Rated M

Leon Marvell | [email protected] Leon Marvell is a writer and associate professor of film at Deakin University. He regularly contributes art reviews to national and international journals and curates exhibitions of new media. Occasionally he makes a bit of art himself.

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