Friday, April 27, 2018

Holy Motors

Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar-man, Geek...
The War of the Grease-paint...

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts...
William Shakespeare

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
                                                                      Bob Dylan 

The latest film by Leos Carax, Holy Motors, is a fascinating polyglot of life imitating art or vice-versa, and by the time it's over, you're not sure which.  It's a film brimming over with tantalizing ideas ranging from the rational to the surreal that it puts the brain into over-drive while constantly changing the landscape, shifting gears episodically while maintaining a singular day-in-the-life storyline for its central character Oscar (Denis Lavant), a trouper if ever there was one.  Oscar is an actor of extraordinary gifts.  In a gigantic white-stretch limo, driven by his scheduler Celine (Edith Scob of Eyes Without a Face, which Carax nods to briefly), he applies make-up, dons costumes, prepares for the next gig on the schedule in a rolling tour of Paris, all precincts, all life-styles, and most importantly to Carax, all genres.

In one scene, he's a motion-capture artist in a completely empty studio performing fight moves, running gun-battles, and a bizarre alien love-scene without a clue as to what the finished product will look like.  In another, he's a gangster sent to assassinate his doppelganger. 
On to the next gig—Oscar in Holy Motors
His assignments are given to him in a notebook with all the specs and requirements.  He opens up his kit of make-up prosthetics, ruffles through his rack of costumes, Celine lets him out and he's on-stage.  As the jobs go from one to the other, the questions bubble up: who is he working for—not only for the booking agency, but also, who are the clients?  Reality blurs.  A call from a teenage daughter could be his real daughter, but one suspects not—he's wearing a wig, and she's never seen again.  The gangster segment could be for anybody.  But, how about the segment where he's a disfigured geek who interrupts a photo-shoot with Eva Mendes--is it to throw off the photographer or to transform the model from a fantasy figure into a person of emotional worth, phantom of the opera-style.  And who is the death-bed tableau for, as the woman he plays it with is also an actress (one suspects that it might be for the loyal dog sleeping on the bed).  An encounter with another actress (Kylie Minogue) turns into a musical number, and a wacko marching band-with accordions-could be for anybody.
But, those are the details.  Ultimately, it's a fantasia about the roles we play in our everyday lives.  We adjust, we tinker, take on different suits and attitudes with every situation that crosses our path in the give-and-take of daily life.  We make an entrance, role-play, act-out, ad-lib, pose, and exit stage-right.  All the world's a stage and we all gotta serve somebody, the devil, the Lord, or ourselves.
Holy Motors keeps you guessing and keeps you challenged, and is one of those rare films that elicit bigger thoughts than the whole, leaving questions that anyone can answer, given their respective roles.


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