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New York Film Festival 2012: Holy Motors

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New York Film Festival 2012: Holy Motors

In Holy Motors, French filmmaker Léos Carax presents an actor named Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) who spends the whole film raging, as Dylan Thomas famously wrote, “against the dying of the light”—specifically the dying light of cinema as he once knew it. Actually, “rage” is a fairly inaccurate way of describing the way Oscar himself pursues his passion even without any cameras to film his performances; his demeanor as he sits in the back of a limousine traveling to and from his various acting “appointments” more often reminds one of Samuel Beckett’s famous expression of weary existentialism: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

But go on Oscar does, in a series of tableaux that, in their own wildly varied ways, feel less like a funeral for the pre-digital era of cinema than a heartening attempt to snatch personal victories from the jaws of larger defeat. An early episode in Holy Motors turns digital motion-capture technology into a hilarious physical burlesque, as, in a pitch-black room illuminated only by digital matte backgrounds and the sensors on his torso, Oscar busts out karate moves, runs on a treadmill only to fall off of it, and then simulates sex with a fellow female actress. In the subsequent episode, Carax revisits “Merde,” his recent contribution to the 2008 omnibus Tokyo!, reviving the spastic woman-licking, flower-munching troglodyte Monsieur Merde and unleashing him in Paris, to eventually kidnap and, in his own repulsive way, seduce a model (Eva Mendes). Other episodes, however, are triumphant in quieter ways. A deathbed scene at a hotel generates deep emotion in the moment; a subsequent meeting with a former flame (Kylie Minogue) palpably trembles with the suggestion of previous unresolved romantic tensions, broken only when the woman suddenly breaks out into song and the film itself momentarily turns into a musical.

The anything-goes spirit Carax and the ever-game Lavant embody in Holy Motors sure is something to experience, and the film is nothing if not genuinely unpredictable moment to moment. Under the mercurial surface, however, lies a sorrowful heart. Oscar briefly gives explicit voice to his mindset in the one scene he shares with veteran French actor Michel Piccoli, in which Piccoli’s unnamed boss-with-a-birthmark provokes him to explain how he soldiers forward with acting even as the cameras have gotten so small that, as he says, “now we don’t even see them at all.” Oscar’s melancholy runs deeper than just that one scene, however; one could argue that it seeps into all of the performances he gives on this day. Driving his daughter (or is it merely a young actress playing a daughter figure?) home after a party, Oscar catches her in a lie and offers as punishment the prospect of “[having] to live with yourself,” and in the the wistful way Lavant delivers the line, one can’t help but wonder just how much of his own self-pitying self he’s bringing to that performance. More directly, there’s that moment after the deathbed scene has ended, in which Oscar tries to reach out to Elise (Elise Lhomeau), the actress playing opposite him, and forge some kind of real human connection beyond just two actors playing parts.

Real versus “reel.” Such is the animating dichotomy Carax plays with throughout Holy Motors, though the film is arguably more intriguing, even uplifting when it applies this theme to the realm of actors and performances than it is when applying it to all of cinema. Carax is hardly the first to bemoan a perceived lack of “authenticity” in increasingly ubiquitous digital cinema, waxing nostalgically about the good ol’ days of analogue filmmaking; film critics/cinephiles have been lodging these kinds of complaints for years now—and still are, if the recent rash of “death of film/film criticism” literature is any indication. Holy Motors takes this nostalgic attitude as received wisdom, and it has the effect of adding an ironic veneer to even the most emotionally affecting of individual sequences that some might find off-putting, if not outright nihilistic.

But no film as full of creative energy and imagination as this one can be said to be entirely nihilistic. A more valuable way to look at Holy Motors, then, is on the more intimate level of a character study: a Brechtian contemplation of an actor who gives so much of himself in his performances that, for him, real life and acting merge until they become inextricable. For Monsieur Oscar—and, one might assume, for Lavant himself—acting is life; it’s all he knows how to do, and he puts so much of himself into it that one starts to wonder where acting ends and personal truth begins. Even if he believes the cinema he once knew and loved is on its way out, he will continue to practice his trade simply “for the beauty of the gesture.” Sentimental? Sure, but it’s his way of reminding himself that he’s still alive and kicking. More than merely a look at cinema’s past, present, and future, the melancholy yet exuberant Holy Motors is a tribute to the damn-it-all enduring spirit of creative passion.

The 50th New York Film festival runs from September 28 to October 14. For a complete schedule, including ticketing information, click here.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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