Holy Motors Directed by: Leos Carax Written by: Leos Carax (screenplay) Starring: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue
Leos Carax claims that Holy Motors emerged partly out of his rage not to be able to make all of the films he wanted. It is not so much about cinema, he said, but that it speaks the language of cinema. It is a weird, volatile piece of work to be sure, and it pays tribute to various genres while tearing down the conventions that hold them together in the process.
At every twist and turn of Holy Motors’ story we are made aware of the artifice present in the making of any fictional film. It tells the story of a man named Oscar (Denis Lavant) who over the course of a day rides from appointment to appointment in his white limo and becomes a different character in a different movie at each one. Weirdly, it has the same storytelling device as its fellow Cannes competitor Cosmopolis, even down to the white limo.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild– No matter how skilled a filmmaker is, rarely does a movie come along that creates a cinematic world that is seething with a new kind of life, a world or vision that movies haven’t seen before. Director Benh Zeitlin, working with a do-it-yourself low budget commune of filmmaking talent and some extraordinary “non-professional” performers, does that with Beasts of the Southern Wild. The ferocious story of Hushpuppy (the amazingly talented child actress Quvenzhané Wallis) and her small, increasingly hopeless village on the other side of a Louisiana levee is filled with fantastical, visually stunning sequences as well as low budget narrative economy. It is this year’s biggest contradiction, and its biggest success.
2. Amour– Michael Haneke’s second movie in a row to win the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor (the Palme D’or) is the director’s most empathetic and devastating work to date. As the camera lingers in the apartment of Georges and Anne (legendary French performers Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva in devastatingly good form), we become privy to the elderly Parisian couple’s tender, haunting final moments together. It is a slow crawl toward death, absent plot twists or Haneke’s sadism. Watching it yields no pleasure, but everything from the incredible performances to the wonderfully precise camera movement lingers long after the movie ends.
I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it. The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it. When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since. To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.
Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are. Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice. With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast. The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.
Cosmopolis Directed by: David Cronenberg Written by: David Cronenberg (screenplay), Don DeLillo (novel) Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon and Paul Giamatti
All this modern billionaire ever wanted was a haircut, though in Cosmopolis it becomes quite clear that he pretty much has everything else a person could desire. David Cronenberg brings his typical visual menace to this deeply intellectual examination of the one percent, staging what amounts to little more than a series of conversations as increasingly intense verbal battles.
When Eric (Robert Pattinson) untints the windows of his hyper-modern limousine, we see an outside world that is coming closer and closer to collapse. He of course is numb to everything but his own concerns, a simple haircut used to exaggerate how miniscule they are in relation to everything else. As he talks (and talks and talks) to his girlfriend, his prostitute, his financial adviser and a myriad of others, it becomes clear that there is a pent-up frustration that is slowly being unraveled as the economy and his fortune near demise.