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Interview: Leos Carax • Director

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"The experience of being alive"


- Leos Carax, French cinema's enfant terrible, sheds light on Holy Motors, the extraordinary film with which he has made a comeback at the Cannes Film Festival.

Interview: Leos Carax • Director

Surrounded by his actors Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, and Kylie Minogue, Leos Carax shed light on Holy Motors (read the review), his fascinating, surrealist film that has caused a sensation in the competition of the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

What was the idea behind Holy Motors ?
Leos Carax: I would cross bridges every day and an old gypsy woman would be there. For years, I saw her, but I never spoke to her. I sometimes gave her a little money, but communication between us was impossible: I simply didn't know how. I don't know why, I kept this image inside me as if it were me in my imagination: I went to different places and turned into this old lady. This is where it all started.

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To what extent did you follow a screenplay and how much of the film was improvisation ?
The film is special, because it was conceived very quickly as I couldn't film my other projects. It was conceived for Denis Lavant, of that I was certain from the beginning. But I'm not a writer or a screenwriter, I take notes that then become a screenplay at one point or another because you need one to find funding. Then, you make sure that life and other things are in the film so that it's not confined to a studio. This comes across in the film, I hope. Many things ended up different from how they were on paper.

In the film, there are lots of cinematographic references. Is this a film about the history of cinema?
I think each film is to a certain extent, but I have always hated the word "reference". When you decide to live on this island that is cinema, it's a beautiful island, but one with many graveyards. Sometimes you go to the graveyard, sometimes you go out for a drink. It's life. If you feel that this film is about cinema, then it was done unconsciously. When you make a film, you produce cinema, at least that's what you're supposed to do.

In the film, you quote Jean Grémillon, King Vidor, Georges Franju, and Jacques Demy among others.
I don't like names. I started filmmaking fairly young and I discovered films at the same time as I was making my own. It would take too long to list all the films and filmmakers that I find important. But I don't pay tribute to anyone in the film: They don't need that.

In this self-portrait with multiple faces, you introduce the idea that one has to see, but that there are no more eyes watching.
You could say that Monsieur Oscar (played by Denis Lavant) is an actor, but it's not a film about actors. It's a film about a man and an experience: the experience of being alive. I used the fact that he might be a actor or a kind of actor that no one is watching: a little like all of us. Beyond that, as films often work through coincidences or links, it's true that Edith Scob had acted in Eyes Without a Face, a very beautiful film that haunted ours a little, but almost by coincidence. I hadn't thought about it in the beginning.

Where did you get the idea for a dialogue between limousines ?
Slowly, as I started to imagine the film, I had the sense that there was a certain solidarity between the character (or rather the characters) played by Denis (Monsieur Oscar), beasts, and machines. And there was this limousine, a very "bling bling" machine. This is why the film is called Holy Motors, because there is a holy motor is all of us, men, beasts, and machines. And there was a new world, let's say a virtual one. After animals and men, I ended up wanting to make machines speak too. I like motors, the word "motor", the word "action", but they are not words that you can really use in filmmaking anymore as there aren't motors in cameras anymore. We should probably say: "Power!" But I think it's fake power, today's power.

What of Denis Lavant's performance ?
He continues to surprise me as I think he has become 10,000 times better that when I first met him, which is not the case with all actors. When we were young, Denis was already what he is now: an insane sculpture. There were at least two sequences that I had imagined and that I thought he wouldn't be able to do. But we told ourselves: "Let's give it a go, let's try anyway!" I thank him for that. I'm very grateful to my actors for this film, but not only to them as he whole crew supported the film, despite tough beginnings to do with funding and other issues. I had never seen anything like it.

How did Kylie Minogue become involved in the project ?
I didn't know Kylie, just her name and her duets. I had a project in London for which I needed an actress, and Claire Denis mentioned her. That film was never made, but I again thought about Kylie for Holy Motors. Her involvement is one of the most beautiful things that happened to the film.

Do you want to be understood by the public?
I don't know who the public is. They're people who will die soon. I don't like films for the public, I like private films. And I invite anybody who wants to see my film to come and see it! I think it's important to be seen. Understood? No. Loved? Yes.


international title: Holy Motors
original title: Holy Motors
country: France, Germany
sales agent: Wild Bunch
year: 2012
directed by: Leos Carax
screenplay: Leos Carax
cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Michel Piccoli, Jean-François Balmer, Elise Lhomeau

main awards/selection

Cannes Fim Festival 2012 In competition
Sydney International Film Festival 2012 
La Rochelle Film Festival 2012 
Munich Film Festival 2012 
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012 
New Horizons Film Festival 2012 
Locarno Film Festival 2012 
Austin Fantastic Fest 2012 
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival 2012 
Sitges Film Festival 2012 
New York Film Festival 2012 
Vancouver International Film Festival 2012 
CPHDOX Festival 2012 
Thessaloniki International Film Festival 2012 
Seville European Film Festival 2012 
Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2012 
Stockholm International Film Festival 2012 
Ottawa European Union Film Festival 2012 
Turin Film Festival 2012 
FAF Belgrade 2012 
European Film Week (Argentina) 2012 
Bergamo Film Meeting 2013 

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