Saturday, October 13, 2012

Resurrection of Alex Oscar

Holy Motors (2012) - Carax
I'm pretty sure I won't see anything more audacious this year than Leos Carax's self reflexive, funny, goofy and touching ode to cinema. Holy Motors follows Alex the performer (Carax's alter ego played by Denis Lavant) as he goes through 9 different lives in one night. The film makes full use of Lavant's acrobatic skills- especially in 'the motion capture' segment that highlights the actor's physical agility and pays a tribute (on a treadmill) to his own film, Mauvais Sang. It also features some of the most bizarre casting choices- aside from Lavant, Michel Piccoli, Edith Scob, it also stars Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue. Carax retraces his steps onto the Pont-neuf even, ever so slightly: after 20 years, old lovers Jean (Minogue) and Alex meet at empty Le Samaritaine department store overlooking the famed bridge which was the setting for Carax's magnum opus (and my personal favorite) Lovers on the Bridge (1991).

Holy Motors marks a comeback of a major French auteur (his last feature was Pola X in 1999). It was very disconcerting to see him all broken up and bitter at a Q&A session for an omnibus film, Tokyo!, in which his contribution Merde was definitely the highlight of the three. He was having a hard time financing any of his projects. He talked about his desire to use his character Merde (Lavant)- a flower eating, deformed creature living in the Tokyo sewer, again in some other occasions and I'm glad he gets to do that in this film. Holy Motors is a product of a frustrated artist finding ways to express himself under difficult financial circumstances. Its disjointed, episodic narrative reflects that. It's vastly different from his earlier work but just as mesmerizing nonetheless. And how can anyone get tired of watching Denis Lavant on screen? He is in top form in this.