Sunday, November 11, 2012

Holy Motors

Writes Roger Ebert: Monsieur Oscar has his work cut out for him, and it takes on ever so much variety because he seems to live entirely within the cinema. OK, I grant you that all movie characters live inside the cinema, but not many live inside 11 different scenarios during the same day, shuttling between one "appointment" and another in the back of a white stretch limousine.

We know he lives in movies because we literally find him in one. Leos Carax's much-debated "Holy Motors" begins with a man (Carax himself) asleep in bed, then waking and approaching a wall of the room that looks like a forest. Knowing just where to look among the trees, he unlocks a door using a key growing from his finger. Well, isn't that what artists do? Unlock doors with their fingers?

Now this man is inside a cinema, and we meet Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), who lives in a house that seems designed by the same architect employed in Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle." He gets into the waiting limo, driven by a taciturn woman, and we see that the back of the limo, seemingly much larger inside than the outside, is a dressing room filled with costumes and props. When he gets out the first time, he has transformed himself into a wretched beggar woman. This will be the first of his many roles, or assignments, or embodiments. He performs in bizarre and mysterious ways, linked only by the desire of a mime or comedian to entertain and amaze us. His "appointments" take him into personas so diverse, it would be futile to try to link them, or find a thread of narrative or symbolism. If there is a message here, Walt Whitman once put it into words: "I am large. I contain multitudes."
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