Leos Carax, 2012
#1, 2012 Skandies
Midway through Holy Motors we hear a track from Sparks' 1975 album Indiscreet. Indiscreet is probably Sparks' strangest album, and that's saying something. Though Sparks have spent their entire career genre-hopping, on Indiscreet they take it to extremes: "In the Future" is proto-New Wave, "Get in the Swing" is marching band music, "Looks, Looks, Looks" is 1930s swing jazz, "Pineapple" is an infomercial for the titular fruit. Holy Motors is the same sort of thing. It's about an old man being driven around Paris in a limousine to a series of "appointments" that involve putting on latex disguises and then doing something bizarre. At one stop he dresses as a homeless crone and begs for change. At another he puts on a motion-capture suit and does acrobatic flips under infrared sensors. He spends an hour as a troll running around a cemetery biting off people's fingers, then switches costumes to become a dad picking up his daughter at a party and chiding her for being shy. What is going on is never explained; there are hints that this is set in a world where drama has moved off of screens and interwoven itself into real life, filmed by tiny unseen cameras. But the overarching story seems like an afterthought: again, Holy Motors is less a movie than a cinematic album, and the scenes have little more connection to each other than do the songs on a typical record. This isn't necessarily a bad idea. I just wish that Holy Motors had been a little less Indiscreet and a little more Kimono My House.
Jason Dyer asks: "Why do you think the movie is so well-regarded by critics?"
Mike D'Angelo, in replying to someone else, provides an answer: "This definitely plays best to a hardcore-cinephile in crowd."
And, yes, many things (the theater in the prologue, the intercuts of 19th-century motion picture experiments, the monologues about cameras) suggest that this is a movie about movies. So if you're interested in movies per se, you might get more out of this than someone like me, who watches movies because they happen to be one of the many forms in which stories get told. (And, as I've noted a time or two, critics who watch 400 movies a year do seem more prone to swoon over this kind of zaniness: "ZOMG, something I haven't seen before!!" The rest of us might not find that experience so unusual that it becomes inherently exhilarating.)