Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sunday surrealism

“We have to laugh before midnight.” Parisian weirdness is supercharged in Leos Carax’s wholly astonishing HOLY MOTORS (2012). After the self–reflexive prologue of a man (the director himself) waking up in a dream room above a cinema, we are introduced to protagonist Oscar, apparently an executive being chauffeured to work by Celine (Edith Scob, Eyes Without A Face), but nothing is what it appears to be in this realm of cinephilia. Oscar applies his first disguise to emerge from his white stretch limousine as a hunchbacked, crippled beggar. He becomes the CG–movie stuntman for mo–cap combat action and contortionist sex. In a grotesque form, he’s a rampaging sewer weirdo; eating flowers in a cemetery before intruding on a street–theatre fashion shoot to, in gothic Quasimodo mode, kidnap a supermodel (Eva Mendes).

From his re–usable chrysalis car, Oscar transforms into the father of a painfully shy teenage girl, leads a parade of accordion players, imitates a murdered hoodlum and, in a burst of spontaneity, changes from a knife maniac into a hooded crazy gunman who cannot be killed. One seemingly bizarre ‘appointment’ follows another until, as elderly Mr Vogan, he sleeps in a hotel deathbed while his doting niece watches over him. Denis Lavant is quite adept at these portrayals, as if he’s a freaky eccentric in vignettes of enigmatic tragedy, or an agent provocateur for livewire role–play about urban paranoia and secret identities. Is there time for one more character stunt? Kylie Minogue plays another of this chameleonic kind, for a musical interlude and suicide, in this mystifying yet fascinating melodrama.

Holy Motors lacks the romantic energy of the director’s previous film works, like Lovers On The Bridge and Pola X, but this retains their emotive power of lives in disarray. What is normality? It’s show–time! In terms of cinematic references, and an auteurist consideration of digital filmmaking, this offers video vertigo. The final bit of garaged whimsy makes little or no sense of what has happened before. Perhaps that is, honestly, the point of it all.

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