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Holy Motors

Entry updated 19 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2012). A Pierre Grise Productions, Théo Films, Pandora Filmproduktion, Arte France Cinéma and WDR / Arte co-production made with the participation of the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) and Canal+ and the support of the Media Programme of the European Union and presented in association with Soficinéma 8 and Wild Bunch. Written and directed by Leos Carax. Cast includes Denis Lavant, Kylie Minogue and Édith Scob. 111 minutes. Colour.

A man named Oscar (Lavant) embodies ten different lives over the course of a day, seemingly bound by some form of obscure social contract to illumine the constant states of renewal, negotiation and narrative inherent to human identity. He is ferried by a chauffeur (Scob) to each of the "appointments", which include begging, dancing, kidnapping, fatherhood, playing the accordion, stabbing a gangster that looks like him, shooting a banker that looks like the version of himself that left for work that morning, a deathbed performance, an assignation with a singing air hostess (Minogue) and, finally, an Apes as Human rendezvous with his own family.

At no point does Holy Motors pretend to be anything other than a constructed narrative erected for the purpose of examining constructed narratives (see Postmodernism and SF). There are allusions to the films of Fritz Lang, Jean-Luc Godard and others, but also to the literary output of J G Ballard and Lewis Carroll and to those Argentine works of Fabulation that inspired the French nouvelle vague in Cinema: the random allotment of occupations in Jorge Luis Borges's "The Babylon Lottery" (January 1941 Sur) is evoked at the beginning of Holy Motors and the metempsychosis of the dreaming Machines from The Invention of Morel (1940) by Adolfo Bioy Casares is made comically explicit by an epilogue in which talking limousines discuss the transitory nature of existence. Holy Motors is in the end a kind of Godgame without a god; it depicts an atheistic beyond in which mind is in matter and soul revealed by the surreal absurdity of human spectacle. [MD]


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