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Darren H

Holy Motors

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I love accordions.

I have read your responses and have printed out your reviews. I am going to take a long bath and read many of your thoughts.

Like The Loneliest Planet, this is a film that hits me even more when the experience is done. The more I read, the more I'm finding to love. While I still do not feel this is a stellar year for film, the few that are worthy of any Top Ten list have been masterful, and loaded with a variety of ways to interpret.

Love that.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Noah Millman:

Seriously, though, I think I understand what Carax is up to. As my title would seem to suggest, he’s re-working Shakespeare’s metaphor of the “seven ages of man” with the cinema rather than the stage as metaphor. In Shakespeare’s (or Jacques’s) rendering of a man’s life, we play many parts, but we play them in sequence. First we are the “mewling and puking” infant, then the schoolboy “creeping like snail” to school, then the lover, the soldier, the justice “in fair round belly,” and so forth until we arrive at the last age, “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

But that is not the way an actor in the cinema experiences the playing of parts. The movie itself may (or may not) take its audience on a character’s “journey,” but the actor doesn’t go through that experience. He or she shows up for a day of shooting and plays a
scene
– has to dive in and become who he or she must be,
in medias res
, and cover the abbreviated arc of a shot before moving on to another bit, or even, potentially, another character entirely. (An actor friend recently told me about working with Hank Azaria in a play, and watching Azaria record a series of bits for “The Simpsons” from his dressing room; he got paid more for that voiceover than my friend got paid for the entire year.)
That
is what “playing a part” means in our mediated age.

And the conceit of “Holy Motors” is that this is a potent metaphor for what life is like now, just as Shakespeare’s theatrical metaphor was potent for his time. In common is the sensation that our life consists of role-playing, that any “real me” that might persist underneath it all is almost indiscernible, and that those we interact with are similarly playing their parts, and cannot be known as themselves. (By the end of the film, I found myself wondering whether there were any “normal” people in Paris anymore, or whether everyone was an “agent” – Oscar muses, at one point, about how much he misses the camera, and whether beauty, which exists in the eye of the beholder, can still exist when there is no beholder, all of which does suggest that the answer is “no.”) What is new is the lack of sequence, the roles and genres following abruptly and unpredictably one upon the other, with no connecting thread.

There’s specific parody here and there in “Holy Motors” – mocking specific Hollywood and French cinema conventions (the double theme that shows up in both murders is a particularly hoary convention, parodied mercilessly in Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s “
“), and the particular absurdities of our times (those websites on gravestones), but the overarching metaphor has more power than these. Carax rouses our emotions most strongly in scenes that we
know
are fake – the old man with his niece, which seems to affect both actors genuinely; and, most alarmingly, Eva’s (Jean’s?) suicide, which looks plenty real . . . except that we’ve already seen Oscar shot multiple times and stabbed in the neck, without any lasting effect. The point is not so much “this is a movie; nothing is real” but that even in
life
nothing is “real” in the sense of completely and immediately accessible because all we can do is play the part we are supposed to play in that particular scene. The comically mystifying transformation of Oscar’s family into apes is the most brutally true instance of the metaphor. Who has not occasionally looked at his loved ones and said, “these are alien beings, a different species, who will never truly understand what I am saying, and I just have to get through this evening without them noticing that I know this about us.”

The film “Holy Motors” reminded me of most is “Synecdoche, New York,” another movie that makes an elaborate analogy between art and life. The difference is that “Synecdoche” was about the theatre, and centered on a writer/director, and so was highly controlled and governed by a relentless march towards mortality. “Holy Motors,” about cinema and centered on an actor, exhibits a more playful, more disorienting, but no less terrifying anarchy. (One might compare
Through the Looking Glass
, with its governing chess metaphor, and
Alice’s Adventures Underground
, with its governing playing card metaphor.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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And?

When you post these quotes, I wonder what you think about them.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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M. Leary wrote:

: And?

: When you post these quotes, I wonder what you think about them.

Well, I was still mulling that one over when I posted it. I've been thinking of Holy Motors primarily as a film about film; the way Millman just naturally gravitates towards the idea that it's a film about *life* struck me as somewhat unusual or unexpected. (Also, Millman's point that we've seen Oscar "stabbed in the neck, without any lasting effect" seems somwhat at odds with the one critic who claimed that it's never clear whether Oscar *does* survive being stabbed in the neck, as opposed to the other guy. But I don't know how germane that would be to Millman's overall point, given that *someone* clearly survived being stabbed in the neck, there.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Michael, it looks like Millman basically saw the movie the way you saw it in your Filmwell piece: as a contemplation on "the parts we play" in a day. Similarly, I concluded my review by writing about how the thing that moved me most about the film was the sense of wearying fragmentation as poor Oscar puts on one character after another, in a Zelig-like fashion, in order to get things done and serve a variety of purposes. Watching him made me think about the chapters of my own ordinary day, and how tired I am of putting on hats and personas, one after the other, all day long. But, alas, my word limit for my review was 1,000 words, and I had to cut the best part, leaving mostly a review that focused on a cinema-focused interpretation. I think I'll post my full review at Looking Closer when I publish my favorites list this week, and restore that section.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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Glenn Kenny had an interesting take on this film after a second viewing.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Just starting watching this. The bent-over old woman is the bottle lady from the Three Colors trilogy, no?


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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(Gravestones with websites on them! Love it!)

And one of them, vogan.fr, actually works. The only other full URL I saw was tobeornottobe.com, but I just got an error message when I searched for it.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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Just starting watching this. The bent-over old woman is the bottle lady from the Three Colors trilogy, no?

I forgot about that! Good catch!

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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Finished. That gravestone detail is more intriguing than I thought at first.

Holy Motors is secretly the same movie as Alps, except that

the Holy Motors operatives are immortal. Beyond the fact that Oscar dies two different times (or three, depending on how you interpret the Vogan scene), there's the part where Oscar is in the car talking to his boss (I think? The guy with the scarred face), and he used to be sure he would die. In the conversation with Jean, Oscar says, "They made me older," not, "I got older," which suggests they don't age normally. A strike against my theory is Oscar's reaction to seeing Jean splattered on the sidewalk, though that could just be the shock of such an extreme client.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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Just starting watching this. The bent-over old woman is the bottle lady from the Three Colors trilogy, no?

I forgot about that! Good catch!

Wow, that's a great catch indeed.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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The film is censored on Netflix.


If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

I'm still an atheist, thank God.

Luis Bunuel (1900 - 1983)

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The film is censored on Netflix.

@*#! (pardon my French)

Edited by Darrel Manson

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I saw it on Netflix. I liked some of it, loathed other parts of it. Only upon reading the patental notes section on imdb did I notice that some of the objectionable content was blurred.

I'll say this: the Quasimodo sequence is up there as one of the mind-numbingly stupidest extended sequences in the history of cinema, blurred or non-blurred. I challenge anybody here to a cgi-suit ninja fight if they feel otherwise.


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Nick, I'm on record that I didn't like the film, but I don't think it can be called stupid. And if you try and type out a reply that says you disagree, I'll bite off your fingers.


That's just how eye roll.

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To be fair, the victim w the bit off fingers... she was being _nice_ to him.

I refuse to be knocked over, head-first, by the near universal acclaim for a segment that has no basis in reality, that insults sacred ground (cemetaries w web sites), that has a kidnapped model who has no expression throughout... just because it's "Weird! Weird! Weird!"

If the director is homaging horror, he doesn't know horror movies. He should go back to playing his strengths--single-take music videos of accordian band instrumentals.


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Netflix *blurs* films?

What other films has it done this to?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: It was already censored for its VOD release, so I don't think Netflix is responsible.

Why would anyone do that, though? As I mentioned at Facebook, I can remember how an R-rated version of Requiem for a Dream was released on DVD because Blockbuster wouldn't accept the unrated theatrical version, but nobody cares about Blockbuster these days, right? Surely, the whole point of Video On *Demand* is -- or should be -- that people can see what they *want* to see without having institutions like that getting in the way?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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So, a question for anyone who's seen both versions of the film--how much of a difference does the slight censorship make? My inclination is just to watch the Netflix version, but if everyone says this is an extremely important penis, I'll get my hands on the DVD or Blu-Ray somehow.

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I believe it's just blurred out for that scene, so it's not a big deal. My issue is more philosophical in that it seems the male penis is taboo while the industry doesn't see the need to bother censoring the female form in any case that isn't broadcast television.

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