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January 03, 2013


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"Unlike That Fuzzy Bastard, I came out not seeing "light, context-less emotion-tweaking"

It's funny, when I first read that comment, my mind immediately went to Mauvais sang, as that's a film I DID sorta feel to be 'context-less emotion-tweaking', but man, I definitely thought it worked and loved it.

"Nick Tosches' latest novel, Me And The Devil, is a pretty problematic piece of work, but in the aggregate I have to say it left a mark."

For me, that line works for Mauvais sang, Pola X, and Holy Motors.

Paul Duane

Just back from a fruitless search of Dublin's bookshops for the new Tosches. At least the day hasn't been entirely wasted. I would never have put these two together but I'm glad someone did.

John Merrill

Tosches composes a perfect epitaph for Tribeca. The vampire stuff -- not so great.


Glenn, I would concur with your take on Holy Motors if it weren't for how clearly Carax revels in the creation of his movie. Unlike POLA X, which does seem genuinely anguished over the artistic life and its travails (and, as a movie, is compromised by this self-pity), Holy Motors, while not without a certain sadness, is just too restlessly inventive and funny to be as pained and regretful as you say. It's extremely rare that a filmmaker manages to deliver on his own bravado and showiness, but I felt that Carax did so in spades. Regarding your comparisons, it seems to me that Holy Motors offers a kind of rebuttal to the dour machismo expressed by Tosches: I'm sure making Holy Motors would qualify as a labor, but to elide the evident joyfulness of the enterprise, not to mention the role of imagination, seems churlish and downright lame. Maybe Tosches would feel better about his life if he had helped build the friggin' railroads - I'm sure he wouldn't have had to suffer as many artsy trust-funders. As for Carax, his orneriness aside, I think he recognizes the sympathy that his (great) work requires.


See, now it's pieces like this that make me wish I liked HOLY MOTORS more. Maybe I'll watch it again when it hits bluray. I saw it with a paying audience in Berkeley last year, and the reception in the room was pretty cool. My girlfriend hated it. My own response was pretty much akin to Mr. Fuzzy Bastard -- a nice performance from Lavant, and occasionally interesting moments, but mostly it's a grab bag of scenes without any narrative momentum or even any compelling sense that what we're watching actually matters to our protagonist or to anyone else. There's no stakes. And it's a rather drab film to look at, too.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I could totally live without narrative momentum, though, if I felt like it added up. I've been googling around in vain hopes of finding something suggesting a larger pattern, or at least general direction that determines the aesthetic choices. It just seemed like while there was a lot of general effect, there wasn't much to really consider afterward because the specific choices were merely moody. When I started wondering why it was this particular CGI mermaid creature or a Cocteau-inspired model changing into a burqa, there didn't seem to be much in the "text" to support further consideration.

That said, I really liked the look of it- on the subject of The Cosmopolis Coincidence I was struck by how Cronenberg shot his limo interior with characteristically North American controlled lighting, while Carax mostly preferred that echt-French natural light that sacrifices sharpness to gain texture. Plus, as our esteemed host notes, the movie sure does conjure a potent mood of loss and regret with allusive and economical means. I just wish I felt like I had more to chew on.

Jason LaRiviere

Glenn, what's with this constant invoking of the straw man that is the "know something"? I get what you're attacking, but you can't have it both ways: critiquing know nothing's like Greenwald while snarkily putting down the informed -- albeit hipsterish/douchey/etc. -- critic.


"I just wish I felt like I had more to chew on."

With apologies to Sam Goldwyn, if you want something to chew on, buy Wrigley's Doublemint.

Ideally, you walk out of a Carax feeling frustrated / ecstatic / with a mark left on you.

(And we obviously walked out of different movie experiences, but your original comment did give me something to chew on even before Glenn picked up on it...)

Joel Gordon

Jason: I think it's "know something-ish": critics who know just enough to feign expertise, but are really hiding a shallow understanding of the subject. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," etc.


Are you serious? As cineastes, there's more than enough to chew about in this movie, that I don't doubt. I don't wanna talk about those, per se. A film about life of an actor and all involved creatives to make a movie is essentially, a lot to chew about; meaningly that the while thing is self-reflexive, so unless you are thinking, you're not. But the argument that there's nothing to chew is just stupid.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Ashraysingh: Sure, I get the big theme and overall (ugh) "message". But the moment-to-moment choices seemed arbitrary to me (why a mermaid? why a burqa? why talking cars?). If you have a coherent notion of them, I'd love to hear it.


Why Gregor Samsa turns into a beetle? Why not into an lame alligator, or an hydrocephalic hippo, or a sentient two-by-four? Oh, boy, Kafka is SO arbitrary, that and his (ugh) "messages".

@Zach: "Unlike POLA X, which does seem genuinely anguished over the artistic life and its travails (and, as a movie, is compromised by this self-pity)"

It is Pierre who feels anguished and pities himself, not Carax (and neither Melville).


@Petey: "Ideally, you walk out of a Carax feeling frustrated / ecstatic / with a mark left on you."

Exactly. And that pretty much applies to every major work of art.


"Exactly. And that pretty much applies to every major work of art."

Meh. There are 'major' works of art very close to my heart that DON'T leave you walking out that way. There are far tidier filmmakers than Carax who still crank out 'major' films, to my way of thinking...

Bill Sorochan

I loved the movie because of the beautiful dream-like playfulness of inter-connected moments that make no sense whatsoever. Sometimes I wonder if we've been so severely handicapped by narrative and meaning that we unfortunately syringe all the fun out of the illogic.


I.B. - while it might be true that Carax wasn't feeling any of the things his main character felt (an extremely unlikely case), it doesn't really matter either way. Several of Carax's very deliberate formal choices contribute to an atmosphere that is turgid, mournful, and pissed off. I like plenty in POLA X - it's thrilling and beautiful at times, but its Carax's least successful film, and it feels far too like a truly epic pity party. I'm not interested in how Carax felt; I'm interested in how his films feel - same goes for anybody, including Melville.

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