Holy ****!

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We loved HOLY MOTORS, now that we finally caught up with it. I have very little history with M. Carax and will now need to catch up with those I’ve missed. Thankfully, we HAD seen TOKYO! so we’d met M. Merde, which may not help understand anything about his appearance in this film but does allow one to greet him as an old friend. A terrifying old friend who eats flowers and has a dog’s erection.

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Basically, in this film Carax’ main man Denis Lavant drives around in a stretch limo (a Fever Dream Double Feature with Mr. Cronenberg’s COSMOPOLIS is a must!) and assumes various disguises/characterisations. He has a dressing room mirror and a shitload of wigs and noses and stuff in the back. Oh, and Edith Scob from EYES WITHOUT A FACE is his driver. When Lavant dons these costumes he enters storylines which have the appearance of complete reality — he can even die, authentically, in these mini-films (HM is kind of a compendium film but without actual “stories” as such) but always returns to life and his strange “job”.

Some flickering half-light is shed on this by a tense meeting with Michel Piccoli, seemingly an employer, who worries if Lavant’s character fully believes in his work anymore. Lavant admits that things have gotten harder since the cameras became miniaturized to the point of invisibility. So these are films he’s appearing in, and thus the whole thing can be seen as a metaphor for cinema, and for Carax and Lavant’s parallel careers — the explicit references to past Carax movies fit neatly into this context.

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This may also shed some light on the funny and beautiful coda when the limo is retired to a parking garage with dozens of similarly Tex-Avery-elongated counterparts. And the cars have a conversation, their headlamps flickering as they speak. It’s the kind of conversation that occurs in dormitories when a few annoying people aren’t quite ready to sleep. Carax himself is one of the automobile voices.

How this ties in to the main film isn’t exactly clear (nor are Lavant’s domestic arrangements, revealed in his last scene, but they made Fiona howl with astonished laughter) but it helps to realize that Lavant seems to be riffing on the deleted first scene of SUNSET BLVD. Billy Wilder deleted this because audiences laughed as William Holden’s corpse was fitted with a toe-tag, little realizing they were chortling at their own fate, some of them. Deleted along with that moment was a conversation between corpses in the morgue, their sheeted forms lighting up as they speak, echoed the flashing lights of Carax’s serried limos (those blinking lights also remind me of Daleks).

SUNSET BLVD, of course, is also a movie about movies, with an elegiac tone comparable, in a way, to Carax’s.

Paul Duane suggests that Lavant is channeling Lon Chaney in this movie, which I guess is what prompted us to finally watch it. It’s true — the actor creating his own make-ups… Merde’s milky eye echoes a specific effect (achieved with egg skin) produced by Chaney in THE ROAD TO MANDALAY… there’s even a random ape scene, which could be seen as a Tod Browning homage.

10 Responses to “Holy ****!”

  1. DON’T FORGET KYLIE MINOGUE!

  2. david wingrove Says:

    Frankly, I thought Kylie was the best thing in the film.

    I never EVER thought I’d say that!

  3. “Leos Carax” is an invention. His real name is Oscar Alexandre Dupont. I first met him back in 1988 when Juliette Binoche was doing press for The Unbearable Lightness of Being and she was carrying him around like a clutch-purse. They were about halfway through the making of Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, a romantic epic that bankrupt several film companies before its conclusion (making it the greatest cinematic extravagance since Lola Montes) Not filmmaker (even Godard) has ever created a grander celluloid monument to his beloved.

    Needles to say when the film was over the affair was over too. Getting her ankle broken water-skiing on the Seine in the climactic scene was what probably did it.

  4. The bridge is prominently featured in Holy Motors — it has a valedictory feeling, but I hope it isn’t the end for him.

  5. I don’t think it could be the end, (as far as I know) the main reason Holy Motors came into being was because Carax had another script he really wanted to make (a period piece I think) but the film company thought he had been out of action too long.

    They asked for a lower budget feature first to test the waters. Carax came up with this.
    I was so glad it was so well received-hopefully we’ll see more from him now

  6. I loved the outright surrealism of HOLY MOTORS, which I saw twice in the theater. I also love LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE, but I recently watched BOY MEETS GIRL and found it vaguely annoying, because I found the Boy pretty annoying. Somewhere in there I also watched MAUVAIS SANG when I was drunk, and all I really remember about it is wondering whether Carax was channeling Sternberg in directing Binoche. “Look at the lamp and count to five” kind of thing. Her performance struck me as very artificial in that one. I’d like to see it again. Because it’ll be like seeing it for the first time again!

  7. I’ve seen all of Carax, on release, except for HOLY MOTORS. Not sure why I missed it, except that his previous POLA X was his first that I didn’t love.

  8. His real name is Alex Christophe Dupont.

    Holy is dedicated to Yekaterina Golubeva,the Russian actress who left us voluntarily in 2011(Carax raised one of her sons).

    Leos Carax: Monsieur Merde is fear and phobia. Childhood too.
    He’s the great post-9/11 regression (terrorists who believe in tales of virgins
    in paradise, political leaders rejoicing that they can finally make the most of
    their full powers, like all-powerful kids. and dumbfounded people, like orphans
    in the dark).
    Monsieur Merde is the extreme foreigner: the racist immigrant.

  9. Excellent!

    Now, somebody had pinpointed a literary source for Merde also, but I can’t remember what it was. The exact description comes from some classic author…

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