{The Life and Death of Mr Oscar} “Holy Motors” by Leos Carax (2012)

Leos Carax is mad as a March hare, which is okay, because his imagination is boundless and torrential, pouring over the canvas of the screen like some farraginous unpolluted dream out of the battered skull of cinema itself.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you? Holy Motors is the birth and death of cinema, and Leos Carax is Adam naming animals in the Garden of Eden, while Denis Levant is interchangeably the angel of Annunciation and the grim reaper straddling the curled lip of the womb, rusty scythe balanced in hand. There ought to be a law against him coming around.

If cinema were a cassette that we could stop and rewind and fast-forward, we’d hear the linear tape turning muddy at key intervals due to overuse. 1954 would be fading badly. 1980 washed-out like a pair of dingy drawers. 1995 deteriorating quicker than Al Pacino’s legacy. Holy Motors manifests cinema’s exhaustion while in a metaphysical state of correction. Tape spooled out and fed back through the wheels, twist after chiral twist, until a new braided convolution appears, allowing us to hear the Mobius ribbon in an aberrant and novel dimension.

Depending on who you ask, cinema is either dead or dying, but these fatalistic reports are greatly exaggerated and grossly inaccurate. Like most natural organisms, cinema has its generations and life cycles. Could cinema ever really die? Death seems too final. Look at literature. It has been going strong for millennia, pupating when times got tough, then decamping from the exuvia and living out its days in another sphere of existence altogether. There’s no reason to believe cinema cannot generate a similar life cycle.

We know where cinema has been but we do not know where it is going? Anticipation is the cultural joy we share whilst we participate in the halcyon act of creation, working diligently like ants to shape our collective artistic heritage. Anticipation is also the anxiety. Cinema is currently going through something chancy. Maybe its merely a bout of restlessness, a case of adolescent nerves before the next evolution. Maybe cinema is becoming more self-aware and thus increasingly critical of its every iteration. I don’t know.

Holy Motors expresses the awful fear, the niggling doubt, the panoptic despair, the fluctuating hope, the irrespresible joy, the transcendental ecstasy of being a movie of yesterday and of today. It is a watershed film. A way-post in the history of cinema, where roads converge and scatter. A union station for the dead, living, and not-yet-born to assemble in wait for the next train to pull in.