Sunday, November 11, 2012

Holy Motors

Hype is a weird thing. I wouldn't say Holy Motors was particularly hyped in the mainstream, but the festival hive-mind effect seemed to be in overdrive for this one. I saw what seemed like an endless supply of "best of the festivals" and "it will change your lifes" at Fantastic Fest, but that's Fantastic Fest. You get a lot of like-minded people seeing the same movies, talking about them together afterwards, and while I don't think that necessarily changes anybody's mind, I suspect it strengthens and reinforces opinions: Those who like it, like it more, and insights and theories that each individually might not have come up with.

And that's cool; it's better to write from a position of more information than less, and there's nothing in the handbook that says a movie review should reflect first impressions only. Besides, given that I generally share the same tastes, I generally tend to find that sort of unanimity a good sign; I just wonder if the level of affection for it is heightened.

I wonder, because for all the enthusiasm displayed by people writing about it at festivals, this was one of the quietest theaters I can recall for a movie with this much weird and intentionally funny stuff, and it's not like it was an empty room. I don't know if it's just me projecting my feelings on the rest of the audience, but I think that the most excited the crowd got was the bit with the accordions; it just seems like a purely fun moment that doesn't get undercut.

Holy Motors

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 6 November 2012 in Landmark Kendall Square #8 (first-run, digital)

Holy Motors is the sort of film that will occasionally get its maker described as "drunk on cinema", just so utterly filled with passion for the medium and its possibilities as to be voluble and more capable of expressing emotion that mere rational thought. Of course, it's also the sort of state where a person stumbles around, throwing up on the people he passes and rambling on about things that just sound silly to the sober. At least he's got a designated driver.

That would be Céline (Edith Scob), who arrives early in the morning to pick up Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) in a limousine and drive him to a series of "appointments". Oscar is an actor of sorts, and the car his mobile dressing room where he removes his wigs, dons prosthetic makeup, and transforms himself into a new person for each stop, only occasionally allowing the audience to see the man behind the blank when he interacts with Céline or other actors between gigs.

The main problem with Holy Motors is, as can often be the case with ambitious and unusual works, also the thing that makes it interesting: An ambitious conceit that allows it to leap between genres and styles while commenting on the nature of cinema itself. Writer/director Leos Carax has a nifty idea, an actor quite capable of handling his chimera of a role and the crew to make it work on-screen, but for as much power as both the idea itself and the individual bits may have, they seldom connect, or even come close enough to have a spark jump between them. The film only rarely produces delight, and when its goal appears to be satiric, that falls flat, too.

Full review on eFilmCritic

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