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Holy Motors, Directed by Leos Carax

Les Films du Losange, July 4, 2012 (France)

Screenplay: Leos Carax

Starring: Denis Lavant and Édith Scob

Attends, je dois te dire quelque chose d’important.

Ironically, I am in a stretch limo although any comparisons end there because the limo is neither white nor being driven through the streets of Paris. Mais non, mais non, we are on the Promenade de la Croisette along the incomparable Mediterranean Sea. I am being chauffeured to the Festival de Cannes for a viewing of Holy Motors, a remake of the Leos Carax film, followed by a press conference. Having seen Carax’s 2012 original more than a few times, I feel honored to have been chosen to participate in the post-viewing Q&A to discuss Guy Mallard’s re-imagining.

It is not until I look over the notes from the dossier sitting next to me that I discover that Carax will be among those asking questions. Of course, I know Guy Mallard and his cast will be on hand to query us (while we on the panel hope to provide intelligent answers), but I had never imagined that Carax would be on hand asking us questions as well.

If coming to this blind or maybe from a not so distant past, you might ask (as Carax himself did, his first and only question that seemed somehow directed straight at me), “Who are we?”

Who are we? We are who ...

T’es prêt ?

Oui, Catherine. Mais oui.

* * *

Le taxi est arrivé, on y va ?

When we leave le festival I don’t know where we are off to next. I am too busy thinking about the question Carax had asked of me. Did I think it made sense for a panel of people like myself to be answering questions about a film that we had nothing to do with?

While he surely must have known that Cannes changed that setup years ago, I can only assume that he was begging the question, lobbing the pitch, hoping I would answer the way he wanted. I obliged. Who are we? We are who the film is created for, non? We are the audience, blank faces in seats looking up at a screen, waiting to be entertained. Without us as target, where to shoot the arrow? Over the history of cinema, we have always been, by default, a key ingredient, non? Our role, recurring.

Predictably, Carax gave no clue as to whether my response had satisfied him in any way.

* * *

I am dancing. I am moving through cavernous hallways, playing an accordion in front of a growing troupe of other players. I am a father. An assassin. I am a monster. A beast. I am a special effect against a green screen. I could have answered in this way. I could have said that we project many personalities to cover the many different roles we portray in our lives.

I could have said that we are the intersection between audience and auteur.

Or that we are life. And death. Love. And loss.

I could have said this and more, but did not. The limo stops. Catherine opens my door and I catch a glimpse of where we are now. I had no idea we were coming here. Would never have predicted it. And that too is important, the unpredictably of life that keeps us in suspense, that keeps our motors running with fuel to spare.

I step out of the limo into the blinding sun and think that I can see them through my squinting, burning eyes. They have been expecting me. I do not know what I will say, how to possibly begin, but I trust that it will come to me, naturally. At least that is my hope as I creep nervously forward. I can see more clearly with each step that they are all watching me intently as if they know that what is about to come next will be something to really see.

I am overcome by a strange sensation, thinking, no wishing, for a curtain to open or better yet close to make it feel more like cinema, but there is no escaping the reality before me.