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By Sherrie Li
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By Amy Nicholson
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By Sherrie Li
I found it more satisfying than Huppert's other Cannes 2012 entry, Michael Haneke's grueling "this is what it looks like to watch a loved one die" drama Amour, but Amour seems destined for the more substantive life domestically. It was instantly pegged on Twitter as the film to beat for next year's Foreign-Language Film Oscar. (In that sweepstakes, don't count out Thomas Vinterberg's soggy competition entry The Hunt.)
Like his Certified Copy in 2010, Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love takes mistaken and appropriated identity as a subject, but the film's own enigmatic, generic identity is itself constantly shifting — that's what makes it thrilling. Tracking a young Tokyo call girl's date with a much older man who later poses as her grandfather, the film is identifiably Kiarostamian in its long-take tableaux and use of cars as portable interior locations. But it's also a sometimes baffling tonal and emotional roller coaster. Juxtaposing road-trip character study, screwball comedy and near noir — among other modes — Like Someone in Love concludes with a sudden act of violence, heralding the crumbling of façades within the movie and a breakthrough for its maker.
Although Kiarostami's film was incredibly divisive on the Croisette, the opposite was true of Carax's Holy Motors, a rapturously received journey into the night starring Denis Lavant as an actor (and assassin?) operating in a never-defined public theater of the absurd. Traveling Paris in the back of a white limo fitted with a vanity mirror and the makeup and costume resources of Universal Studios, Lavant's character (who goes by a number of monikers, including Alex and Oscar, variants of Carax's own given name) moves from one "assignment" to another, assuming new identities in a variety of elaborate costumes.
In the most purely exhilarating sequence, Lavant re-dons his demented sewer-dwelling leprechaun costume from Carax's segment of the 2009 omnibus Tokyo! to kidnap a top model (played, incredibly, by Eva Mendes). He drags her to his lair, where — naked, massive erection on display — he refashions her couture gown into a burqa. That this doesn't play for shock value is indicative of the magical charm offensive Carax has pulled here.
Threaded through with ruminations on performance and reception, vague verbal references to the eyes of unseen cameras and intercut references to early, pre-narrative film, Holy Motors is a kind of highly personal history of cinema — and a speculative suggestion of its future.
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