I have no idea what to make of this film, but I loved every fucking second of the experience.
I have no idea what to make of this film, but I loved every fucking second of the experience.
The WTF is going on movie of the year for sure.Don't really know if this is actually good or a mess and what to make of it but i appreciated and enjoyed the movie.Completely different to most of the movies i've seen.
Yeah, this was quite original and all... But I really didn't care much. It was... OK?
I loved this, although I would agree with Buster and some others that the comparison to Lynch is quite arduous. The gravitas of Inland Empire is not there, but that speaks more of the sheer magnitude of Lynch's vision rather than of Carax' work, which is still beautifully layered and cryptic and to be honest...maybe a little more fun to watch than Inland? I think the Buñuel/Dalí comparison makes much more sense because of the element of utter surreal fun the movie has. It felt like one of those cinematic games played by surrealists in the 1930's when during one single evening they would move from movie theater to movie theater only to catch one scene of each film so that at the end of the night they felt they had experienced the one true surrealist film. Each scene was an experience on its own, sometimes comedic and sometimes dramatic, but the final effect was fluent in the way it gave them a perfect picture of all the masks of the human condition.
It was pretty much what I got from Holy Motors and I loved the use of make-up here, which was not only perfect to look at but added so much to the themes of the movie. The fact that you see make-up and prosthetics being put on and off is a great way to visualize the theme of masks/masked identities/hidden identities because they look so real, but the movie is very keen on showing you they're not. It's very playful how the hidden fakeness/apparent realness of all of Oscar's identities still leads us to feel for him and all the supporting characters of each new world he inhabits, and then at the end the one character we thought was actually real and simple and straightforward puts on the most openly fake (and blank) mask of all, while Oscar goes back to such a primitive state that is quite literally pre-human...and then one of the simplest, most human dialogues of the movie is between cars. It was so wonderfully satirical.
Well, the difference between INLAND EMPIRE and Holy Motors is that Lynch is primarily focused on the spiritual/transcendental power of film, while Holy Motors is all about how film can expose the performative aspects of life and our everyday encounters. That Carax begins the film with a shot of the spectators and ends it with only proves that Holy Motors is a film about performance. Like kupo said, it's all about the blurred lines between cinema and life, when does it begin, when does it end, just as when does the performance end and when does it begin. Because I don't buy any real "religious"/spiritual reading of the film--the person I was with kept harping on about a god, or director, which I think is stupid to obsess over in this film (since the emphasis is clearly on individual autonomy in terms of identity and performance), I disagree that the monkeys and other animals throughout the film are references to reincarnation; they're, as kupo said, about the blending between performance and life and what may distinguish us humans from lesser animals is how we perform or our potential to understand performance, yet at the same time, it is a very simple and primal "concept," performance. The film is ultimately a mirror (as seen in those opening/closing shots) set to show us that our interactions are inherently performative and that film could only exist if our normal existences were performed and vice versa. That is, film is perhaps the only medium/thing that can show us how our everyday interactions are performed, which we are not necessarily conscious of, so film is then in turn dependent on the performative nature of life. It's a very smart film. And fun. It made me want to reread Judith Butler, which is ... a compliment.
I still don't know about the whole Eva Mendes sequence and the recreation of the pieta at the end of that scene?
Last edited by filmy; 11-27-2012 at 02:27 PM.
To dig into the film...
It basically comes down to:
- A framework which allows for acting to take place without reference to sequential continuity
- A structure which itself is completely continuous, meaning that it is essentially a 'realistic' portrayal (plus hidden special effects) of a person acting
- Self contained short scenes, often without any sense of closure
Basically, there are a few spare avant garde elements:
- Acting style which need mimic reality
- Disregard for 'character', in the sense of a protagonist
- Plotless or thinly plotted sequences
However, there are some very, very typical elements which render the avant garde elements 'normal'
- The implication that the unrealistic acting on display is, in fact, just a real person faking unreality
- The implication that the unrealistic characters on display are, in fact, just a real person faking unrealistic characters
- The implication that the thinly plotted scenes are, in fact, just a portion of a very rigid plot with a man filling out his appointments through the day
- EXTREME diegetic continuity, such that even when something 'extreme' happens it is shrugged off not as a contradiction but a trick of the trade-within-the-film
Without the explicit framing device within a film all four of these elements can be overcome by either a.) suspending one's disbelief or b.) using your own brain to create the framework - an awareness that you are always watching artists at work (this need not negate 'absorption' or 'vicarious identification', but it need not be subsumed, either).
There are plenty of similar films such as this which simply don't have those highly 'typical' framing elements, and they tend to rub lots of people the wrong way. It's as if Carax has taken Brecht's theory of epic theater and turned it into epic pacification. The result is - people who normally do not enjoy artifice find themselves able to enjoy it, with some sort of 'vicarious identification' with the actor in the film as an actor in a film. It's a brilliant tactic. It's commercially necessary, but artistically completely unnecessary.
My point? There's no point! The framework is, artistically, pointless. To Americans the word 'act' implies 'mimic reality', whereas the French word is 'play' and it tends to mean... 'have fun'. Carax gave Americans the ability to 'play'. Now if only people will realize that you don't need a heavily schematized framework to give you that freedom...
The segments within are mostly fun and interesting. But, like, they're just unrelated shorts. I love me a sprawling epic. Now that people can enjoy crazed acting, disregard need for relatable central characters, and couldn't care less for plot - will Zulwaski finally overtake Spielberg?
I was avoiding posting my thoughts in here until now. I saw it at the Sydney Film Festival in June and I'm in the minority when I say I wasn't a huge fan of it. Only the sequence with Kylie I enjoyed and it hasn't stayed imprinted in my brain like some other films I've seen this year. That being said, I do think if they submit Kylie's song, they've got a chance of getting into Original Song.
"It's better to over analyse than not analyse at all." NM. 2000.
I agree in sense with what you say, Jean: I think the particular "plot" Carax designed was pragmatic--crafted, in a way, to placate those that have an aversion to the plotless, the surreal, the meandering and wandering...but I don't think it's accurate to define it as solely (or even predominantly) so. I do think there was artistic purpose to it.
And I think some of the "typical elements" that you list reduce the film in ways that aren't necessarily warranted or supported by the text itself. Is there ever actually the implication that any of these unrealistic characters are real people faking unrealistic characters? If anything, I think the film pretty clearly suggests quite the opposite: that there are no "real" people at all, and these characters ARE these people. Oscar exists solely to be these people, so they're more "real" than he is.
The opening itself contains elements of surrealism that already fundamentally undercut our ability to declare anything at all "real" within the film's universe. But more to the point: the film opens with Oscar leaving what we assume to be his home and going to, as you say, "[fill] out his appointments throughout the day." But, given that he ends at a different house than he begins, we understand that where we started was an "appointment" as well.
So what is Oscar's "real" life? Is it only in the liminal, transitory space of the limo? How is this "inbetweenness" real at all? It's weightless and without context. If this is the real Oscar, the fact that the vignettes feel more substantial is telling. The film is purposely structured so that what seems real (the limo) also seems the most inconsequential--transitional scenes meant to take us to the "real" meat of the film. So what's really "real" then? How are we defining that term? Certainly, Oscar's characters in the context of the film and its presentation are more real than he is. And to go even further, we have absolutely no hard evidence (as if there could be any!) to suggest that Oscar isn't a character as well.
And all of this, of course, makes clear that the somewhat traditional framing device IS necessary to some of the film's central artistic purposes. For the film to investigate and challenge essentialist notions of identity, it can't disregard the idea altogether. Carax's real coup is in crafting a narrative that seems to have a "real" person, but then making you realize by the end all of his characters seem to have more of a life than he does--more of an autonomous existence. Carax wants to make his audience feel as though they're on the stable ground they usually are with narrative cinema before he points out that that notion of stability was misguided from the outset.
There is no implication that the unrealistic acting is unrealistic at all, or, more importantly, no implication that the acting is the "unreality" in this scenario. And if the appointments literally take up all of Oscar's life as the film seems to imply, it ceases to be a job, they cease to be appointments, and they begin, quite simply, to be his "real" life. So there is no implication that the plot is about a man "filling" appointments. The implication is actually that we're watching a man live. Period.
Basically, I think the film deliberately, philosophically unravels its own narrative schema.
Last edited by kupo; 11-28-2012 at 01:50 AM.
I think we're given some very interesting clues about Oscar's real life, his actual soul. We have the comment he makes to Céline about wishing he was going to the forest. A desire to be away from the buzzing metropolis where most of his appointments take place. There's also an echo of this in the sequence where he's dreaming? We see a bunch of trees and if I'm not mistaken maybe a cemetery?
Second, we have his conversation with Piccoli in the limo, which I don't exactly remember, but I believe it was about obsolescence? And talking about missing the cameras, which are now too small? So perhaps he used to perform on stage, on TV, on film, and now he must earn a living performing for "hidden" cameras?
We also have his behavior towards the other "actress" after the deathbed scene. He's very polite and warm to this woman. He reassures her, asks her for her name, and I believe says he hopes to see her again. So he can't be described as some cold, bitter person outside of the characters he's portraying.
Last, we have his interaction with Kylie Minogue's character. She's an associate whom he's been involved with possibly professionally and personally. There's a gulf of things unsaid between them. Loss, regret, etc. And then he mentions likely never seeing her again, something that should be separated from her suicidal performance. Or is it? Oscar gets up multiple times after apparently life-ending injuries, so why does he react with such anguish when she does it?
T E A M R I V E T T E
For those who liked Holy Motors (a metafilm, which talks about the multiple forms of modern cinema and the anguish of being an actor or an actress - due to such anguish, Carax's significant other , who was an actress, committed suicide - the film is dedicated to her), you should check Mauvais Sang (Carax's best film by far IMO), then Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont Neuf). Binoche and Lavant are outstanding in both films.
Last edited by Semp; 11-28-2012 at 09:26 AM.
In fact, the sequence with Kylie Minogue is so slippery, that it's nearly impossible to read. They get out of the car and Kylie asks Lavant if his gray hair is his hair, and he replies, "No, not yet." A joke, and yet also an admission that Oscar understands these characters are in some sense self-fulfilling prophecies--and again, how could they not be if he spends his whole life enacting them? It ceases to be an "act" if it has no boundaries and is perpetual.
He asks her if those eyes are hers, and she replies "No, Eva Grace's." She's playing an air stewardess. And so we assume she is in costume already as Eva. And yet, at the end of the segment, after Lavant leaves her, she actually pulls off her wig, revealing her "real" hair. And it is her real hair that is part of her Eva "costume." So how can we assume that Eva is less real than Jean? If the pixie cut was not her real hair, but Lavant did not ask her about it after she directly asked about his, are we to assume that he believes this *is* her real hair, meaning he seems to know an "artificial" persona as well. Regardless, at the end, as you note, Oscar reacts with great anguish. And yet, we must note it is the sight of Eva's dead body (which we assume doesn't mean Minogue's character is necessarily dead, because Lavant has survived multiple fatal injuries) that sends Lavant into a panicked run to hide in his limo. It is Eva Grace's death that causes real ripples. So how can we say she isn't real and Jean is? How can we assume that the persona that Oscar knows is her originary one? Or, I suppose the more important question philosophically: how and why should we assume that one's "originary" persona remains more "real," or more vital to understand, than the others they adopt?
"Who were we when we were who we were back then? Who would we have become if we'd done differently back then." You "act" different, you become different.
The film does insinuate quite clearly that these are "people" playing roles, but again, what I'm saying is that the film goes to great lengths to complicate the notion that those "people" are actually any more real than their characters. Oscar remains as nebulous as Merde in every way, and interacts with fewer people. So who's the act? Who's the fake? Who's existence is harder to attest to?
Last edited by kupo; 11-28-2012 at 09:51 AM.
Thanks, Kupo. You continue to make this film even richer than it already is.
T E A M R I V E T T E
I do love reading this thread, and everybody's thoughts continue to challenge and enrich my own understanding of the film. I'd almost forgotten the scene with Piccoli until you mentioned it, Laz, and that definitely provides an interesting insight into "Oscar." And, humorously enough, all the nonsensical shit I make note of and blather on about, and it hadn't even crossed my mind that it could be Lavant's doppelganger that escapes the garage! A possibility that rather tickles me.
Last edited by kupo; 11-28-2012 at 12:35 PM.
LOL, i hadn't even thought about the name Oscar. Which makes it funnier.
I know that's partially because Carax's given name is Alex Oscar Dupont. But I'm sure it's purposeful that after having Lavant thrice play "Alex," he finally switched over to Oscar this time.
I tend to agree with kupo on the point that there is as such nothing real at all or the there is no way basically to know what is and what isn't. How do we know the person playing all those parts is also an act itself.
But there is another thing that I felt, in addition to all the interpretations people have brought up so far, and that was a feeling of exhaustion gloom and tiredness of existing. Both physically, in Lavant's facial expressions and his lean body and lithe movements. It was like that he is (self)condemned (partly he wants to himself) to exist and play those parts and he wants it too but at the same time it is too psychically and emotionally demanding. This fatigue worsens as the day ends and he goes onto his last appointment of the night. A bit of lyric of the song that plays at the end also mention something like this. Is like that we even if are suffering and unhappy in our daily lives and parts that we play, we still do not want to die and we keep on living and struggling.
The immediate interpretation--which is an easy one, I guess--that I was able to make from the Eva Mendes scene was the contrast of 2 extremes: a completely covered, so-called modest woman and right beside with her not only a completely naked but fully aroused man (ladylurks also commented similarly.) Was it a critique on the cultural war in France, in world in general? Our hypocritical standards about how we represent and accept females and their exploitative representations in media?
I don't know. I might be all over the place.