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Fantastic Fest Review: HOLY MOTORS Is Perhaps One Of The Best Films Hulk Has Ever Seen

A reminder of what cinema can truly be.

Fantastic Fest Review: HOLY MOTORS Is Perhaps One Of The Best Films Hulk Has Ever Seen

AN AUDIENCE WATCHES A FILM IN A THEATER.

WE WATCH THEM WATCH THE FILM.

ELSEWHERE, A MAN GETS OUT OF BED.

HE CANNOT  SLEEP.

HE FEELS HIS WAY AROUND HIS ROOM. HE PASSES BY HIS WINDOW AS AN AIRPLANE LANDS. HE TOUCHES HIS WALL. IT IS PAINTED WITH A LONG TREES.

HE FINDS A KEYHOLE.

HIS FINGER CONTAINS A KEY.

HE OPENS A DOOR AND WANDERS DOWN A HALLWAY.

HE ENTERS THE THEATER FROM THE BEGINNING AND OVERLOOKS IT ALL FROM THE BALCONY.

HE WATCHES A MOVIE UNFOLD. IT WILL BE A MOVIE ABOUT MANY THINGS. A FILM ABOUT CINEMA. A FILM ABOUT HIS WORK. A FILM ABOUT HIS LIFE. A FILM ABOUT HIS DEEPEST FEARS AND REGRETS.

THE MAN WATCHING THE FILM IS LEOS CARAX.

AND HE IS THE DIRECTOR OF HOLY MOTORS.

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WRITING ABOUT THIS FILM IS ABSOLUTELY DAUNTING.  IT IS UNQUESTIONABLY WHAT HULK WOULD CALL AN 'ART FILM" BUT IT IS AN ART FILM IN THE VERY BEST SENSE OF THE PHRASE. IT CONTAINS A STRONG THROUGH-LINE AND HEAVILY SUPPORTED CODIFIED LANGUAGE. BUT MORE THAN THAT, HOLY MOTORS IS AUDACIOUS, FUNNY, ENTHRALLING, CRYPTIC, HUMANE AND PERHAPS A PERFECT REPRESENTATION OF WHAT CINEMA CAN REALLY BE.

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HOLY MOTORS IS THE RARE FILM WHERE THE MORE YOU KNOW ABOUT THE STORY OF LEOS CARAX, THE MORE POIGNANT IT CAN ACTUALLY BE. IN BEST OF THE FRENCH TRADITION, HE BEGAN HIS CAREER AS A FILM CRITIC. HE FIRST CAME ONTO THE SCENE WITH 1984'S BOY MEETS GIRL AND REPEATED WITH SEVERAL WELL RECEIVED FILMS TO FOLLOW IT UP. BUT THE LAST TWO DECADES HAVE NOT BEEN AS KIND TO HIM. CARAX HAS NOT MADE A FEATURE FILM IN 13 YEARS. HE HAD A SHORT IN 2008'S TOKYO, BUT HIS LAST FULL LENGTH EFFORT WAS 1999'S POLA X WHICH CAME ON THE HEELS OF A MAJOR HIATUS AFTER 1993'S LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE. DESPITE THE RECEPTION, HULK CONSIDERS BOTH FILMS TO BE UNCOMPROMISING MASTERPIECES; CINEMA WHICH FIRES ON ALL CYLINDERS WITH RECKLESS ABANDON. THERE ARE MANY WHO CONSIDER HIM TO BE THE MODERN JEAN-LUC GODARD... HULK IS ONE OF THEM.

BUT THE STORY OF HOLY MOTORS IS ROOTED IN SOMETHING FAR MORE TRAGIC. HULK ALMOST HESITATES TO TALK ABOUT IT, GIVEN THE NATURE AND SECRECY ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AND THE TABLOID-LIKE NATURE OF THE SITUATION, BUT THE TRAGEDY HANGS OVER THE ENTIRE FILM AND MENTIONING IT WILL ONLY HELP TO ACCENTUATE THE EMOTION AND RAWNESS OF THE PROCEEDINGS... CARAX WAS DEEP INTO PRE-PRODUCTION ON ANOTHER FILM WHEN HIS PARTNER AND MOTHER TO HIS CHILD DIED IN PRIVATE CIRCUMSTANCES (IT WAS AN APPARENT SUICIDE). CARAX HAS NOT TALKED ABOUT IT, NOR SHOULD HE HAVE TO. HIS ANSWER WAS TO SIMPLY GO OFF AND DEVELOP A NEW IDEA. A STARKLY PERSONAL SURREALIST EFFORT ABOUT EVERYTHING HE WAS GOING THROUGH. A FILM THAT IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT DEATH, BUT THE WAY DEATH INSPIRES A REFLECTION ON MORTALITY AND THE LIFE THAT HE HAS LIVED.

AND IN DOING SO, HE HAS MADE WHAT HULK CONSIDERS HIS BEST FILM TO DATE.

AND MAYBE ONE OF THE BEST FILMS HULK HAS EVER SEEN.

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AT THE TOP OF THIS ARTICLE HULK DESCRIBED THE OPENING OF THE FILM. TO EXPLAIN WHAT EXACTLY TRANSPIRES AFTER THAT WOULD BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE; SUFFICE TO SAY HE EXPLORES HIS LIFE THROUGH THE DISTILLATION OF CINEMA. AT THE HEART OF THIS EFFORT IS DENIS LAVANT, AN ACTOR WHO NOT ONLY GIVES THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS (OR ANYONE'S) CAREER, BUT A MULTITUDE OF CHAMELEON-LIKE PERFORMANCES (THAT STATEMENT WILL BEST MAKE SENSE WHEN YOU SEE IT). HULK HAS NO FAITH OR EVEN INTEREST IN THE NATURE OF YEARLY AWARDS, BUT IF THERE IS ANY CINEMATIC JUSTICE IN THE UNIVERSE IT IS THE KIND OF PERFORMANCE THAT PEOPLE SHOULD TALK ABOUT FOR THE REST OF TIME. IT WOULD NOT BE UNCOUTH FOR HULK TO IMPLY IT IS ONE OF THE BEST PERFORMANCES THAT HULK HAS EVER SEEN.

AS THE CHARADE OF THE FILM GOES ON, BLURRY LINES BLUR INTO OUTRIGHT INVISIBILITY AND THE MORE HIS LIFE BECOMES LIKE MOVIES, THE MORE MOVIES BECOME LIKE HIS LIFE. THE TOUCHSTONES ALONG THE WAY ARE THE SPECTERS OF DEATH AND TRAGEDY, PARENTING AND MISGUIDANCE, A JOURNEY INTO ONE'S GREATEST REGRETS.  BUT IT NEVER LOSES SIGHT OF THE DEEPEST COMEDY IN TRAGEDY. AT TIMES THE FILM IS A EXPRESSION OF CARAX'S LONG-TIME SENSE OF "OTHERNESS" AND THE HILARITY OF BRUTISH VULGARITY. AND THE FILM'S ENDING COULD NOT BE A MORE INNOCENT REMINDER OF THAT HILARITY, AS WE REALLY LEARN WHAT EXACTLY THIS "HOLY MOTORS" BUSINESS IS ALL ABOUT... WELL... IN A SENSE.

BUT REALLY IT'S THE KIND OF FILM HULK WILL NEED TO SEE A FEW MORE TIMES AND THEN WE'LL PARSE OVER EVERY MOMENT AND SUSS OUT THE MEANINGS AND INTENTION. AS OF THE MOMENT, HULK IS MORE THAN HAPPY TO ACCEPT IT IN ITS RAWEST STATE OF A FIRST VIEWING AND SIMPLY INVITE AS MANY OF YOU OUT THERE TO DO THE SAME. IT IS NOT ALWAYS THE EASIEST FILM AND MAY NOT BE YOUR THING, BUT IT IS UNQUESTIONABLY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. SOMETHING ORIGINAL. AND SOMETHING DEEPLY MEANINGFUL.

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AND TO LEAVE YOU WITH THE SIMPLEST OF STATEMENTS, HOLY MOTORS IS FILM THAT MAKES HULK'S HEART SING OUT FOR THE ARTIST(S) WHO CREATED IT.

AND IT SERVES AS A SOLID REMINDER OF WHAT CINEMA CAN REALLY BE.

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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