The Beauty of the Act
Originally published as part of the “Hail Holy Motors Part Two: A Spontaneous LOLA Collective,” issue 3 LOLA.
|While re-watching the trailer for Holy Motors, it froze on Lavant, hunched behind a mirror, at the back of a limousine. Sitting, bald and shirtless, he is crowded by indistinct detritus. The still, dark shot is lit only by the mirror’s globes and the neon green that aches from the world outside. A single, static subtitle reads, ‘The beauty of the act’ (la beauté du geste). Here, the sense of story lingers: both menacing and enticing, it is felt, not yet understood.This is the first time I have ever been grateful for my shoddy Internet connection. In this instance, it fortuitously provided me with a crystalline moment that I would have otherwise struggled to select. Not because such moments are hard to come by in Holy Motors; rather, because there are so many.Holy Motors is a rich bounty for the mind and an adventure for the heart. Directing attention solely to the astonishing performances or the chaotic narrative structure would be at once too expansive and too limiting. To concentrate on one specific element – the masterful music, heightened colour, indirect tone or formal successes – is a recipe for a thesis. A fluid and inspired creature, Holy Motors will be many things to many people; for me, it is largely a feeling that is perfectly encapsulated by this frozen moment of screen time.
Upon viewing Holy Motors, a particular sensation nestled itself somewhere in my chest, while sparkling in my wide eyes. Still now, upon reflection, I can feel the same mixture of joyful anticipation, respectful intrigue and immense wonder. During the film each incident, pouring forth in a deliberate ode to imagination, inscribed an infectious awe that wholly, loudly and defiantly lauded the ‘beauty of the act’. Smitten by its splendour, I was and remain utterly enamoured with Holy Motors, a film that, in and of itself, is enamoured with artistic expression.
The true beauty of Holy Motors lies in its ability to incite such an emotional reaction at the time of viewing and for long after the event, even when the moving images are spliced and still. Holy Motors was a swoon-inducing fiction feast; while I watched it with clasped hands and moon-eyes, it was not a purely sterile, clean romance – a truth that only added to its potency.
The path that Holy Motors led me down was often murky, rough, violent and puzzling. But I never felt lost because, while at times disorienting, it never became obtuse. The combination of an innocent, childlike sense of imagination with elements of grand myth and art, reappropriated into a fanciful, curious world, is truly a spectacle to behold. As a love letter to cinema, Holy Motors seemed personal in its celebration of story, music and performance; in essence, it was a movie-length rumination on the beauty of the act. I felt it each step of the way.