Holy Motors – written / directed by Leos Carax, 2012
One of my oldest friend-brothers has a pointed enthusiasm for bad horror movies. When we spend time together, we often end up watching a preposterous horror movie and laughing at it. This was something we spent a big chunk of our adolescence (and a little beyond) doing. No problem. I’m into it, too. It’s an every-once-in-a-while thing.
The other night, though, it was two movies directly in a row. I don’t watch movies often, and watching a huge screen for too long usually makes me nauseous and results in a migraine-and-heave situation. That’s kind of where it got me. I had a headache from watching a screen for too long and being up way past my early-30s-fart bedtime. Most noticably, though, I did not feel like the headache was worth it. I enjoyed the first movie (started around 9:45pm), Night Watch (1997), in which Ewan McGregor plays a young law student that takes a 3rd shift security guard job at a morgue.
He is implicated in a series of nasty necropheliac murder-mutilations and suspenseful fearfulness ensues. There is also some philosophic content dealing with the urge to live as vibrantly as possible and not to give in to the dullnesses of old age. At points throughout the movie, characters talk of seizing of intense experience as a key purpose and ideal of every life. It’s a fun every-movie-should-be-at-least-this-good thriller.
The second movie was World War Z (2013), in which Brad Pitt goes on a frightful journey around the world in search of a solution to the rapidly advancing worldwide plague of extremely aggressive and fast-movie zombies. Do not ask me why I did not choose to stop the movie at 1am when my friend decided to call it a night, for I do not know. I did stay up until 2:45am or so in order to finish the movie, and I did not feel like I benefited from doing so. I do not fret over it, though, since there are far worse choices I could be making.
This doo-doo double feature was a dissatisfying usage of passive time. I like to spend passive experiences (music listening, movie watching, hanging loose w/ friends, seeing live music, etc.) taking in stimuli that provide psycho-physiological nutrition. On this night I speak of, I did not nourish myself. Instead of feeling energized and percolating with new feelings of stimulation, I felt as if I had just taken some hot, fresh doo and dalluped it right into my psycho-system. I didn’t recover until a day and a half later, after re-setting my sleep schedule and having a bit of physical activity. Ride the bike. Get some sun. Purge the misuse of the human machine.
The next evening, I was fortunate to quickly pick out Holy Motors from Netflix’s seemingly-infinite-yet-glaringly-incomplete library of foreign films. The film drew me in with its surreal events and aesthetics, and nutritionally satisfied my intellect with trinkets of deep thought. There is a followable chronology, with some beguiling twists, and a clear-enough ending, but the content is consistently abstracted, fantastic or embellished. A lot of the cinematography has a cinema verite approach, but ultimately the movie has a lushly stylized shot composition palette engaging in many experimental sequences. Dolly shots, intricate color composition, slow motion, reversal, digital animation and use of video filter effects all work to make the film into a varied and spectacular work of the imagination. I thought it bore similarity in feel to a film by Luis Bunuel called The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise; an awesome little surrealist commentary on the foulness of the ruling class. Events and behaviors throughout the movie speak volumes.
These actions also ask questions of the viewer, and thankfully we are given the space to ponder them, rather than having the answers ladled onto our faces as so many doo-movies are wont to do. Holy Motors is a very cool surrealist parable that I found highly enjoyable. This is the most enjoyable film I’ve seen since Under The Skin, and I would put this on the same level; very high.
Mystification is the plentiful currency of these movies, and I am always greedy for mystification. These are not doo-movies. Please believe me.
I wonder; if I would have watched Holy Motors as the second movie of the double feature (rather than World War Z) would my feelings of discomfort and out-of-wack-ness been taken as positive aspects, adding to my enjoyment of the experience of this movie? Sometimes spontaneous events involving over-exertion of ones physiology can be wonderfully enjoyable and beneficial. I think things can be learned from somewhat trying or negative experiences, but I find that often what is learned from such events are things already known – if only intuitively. If your gut tells you not to go in that crappy bar you’ve been in a dozen other non-gratifying times, don’t go. If your gut tells you to shut off the TV and go to sleep, mium carpe diem quam bene iudicasse iudicantis per salutem, dummy.