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The
notion of postmodernism appeared from the mid 20th century through
philosophy before architecture uses this term from the 1970s and has expended
to other artistic movements. It is still difficult today to really define the
postmodernism from a general point of view. As far as the cinema is concerned,
critics have identified several movies as post-modern’s references. This is the
example of Blade Runner from Ridley
Scott released in 1982 and of our study subject, released more recently in 2012
by Leos Carax: Holy Motors. As the
post-modern architecture mainly defined by Charles Jencks at the end of the
70’s, the post-modern cinema uses parts of the modern cinema that we first have
to define to understand its difference.

 

According
to Davy Chou, a French-Cambodian film director awarded at Cannes in 2016, the
modernism in cinema starts after World War II especially with Germany Year Zero in 1948 from Roberto
Rosselini. Other directors from the New Wave for example have next enriched it.
That cinema became emancipated from proper meaning and logic and gave a new
artistic movement. It is the abandon of the politically correct script, of the
beautiful, wise and heroic character who always dressed well in every scene.
The modernism in cinema portrays the real life, portrays what people see and hear
every day with often a dream like vision.

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Individually,
it could be difficult to understand a precise meaning to each scene sequence in
Holy Motors, as many would view them
as “non-sense”. Before venturing there, let’s uncover other similar post-modern
movements. As Mary Klages wrote about the work of Jean Baudrillard, a
philosopher specialized in the post-modern society: the notion of Original in
the current society has disappeared and left a place to the Copies. Sure, even
if there is thousands of a copy of a great painter’s masterpiece, the original
will always have the best value. However still, according to Baudrillard,
everything is copy today. Copy of movies, of music, of pictures on different platforms.
Copy of cars, of watches, of shoes which sold at the same price in order to
nourish the massive consumer society. “I
shop therefore I am” as Barbara Kruger wrote on her post-modern art piece
at the end of the 80’s.

 

This
notion of Copy is of course really exposed in Blade Runner, our other reference in post-modern cinema, through characters
replication.  In Holy Motors, the scene with the teenage girl, where one would mostly
ask, is this the reality of the main character? Is he the real father of this
teenager? By taking the end credits in consideration, he may not be the real
father but another “rendez-vous” of Mister Oscar, the reflexion about the copy
and the original is taking his place. This unsocial and depressed girl is in
the need of a comforting father and needed him to bridge the absence of the
original one. It is not rare these days that the substitute father is better
than the biological one. In that same scene as well, she lied to the father and
gave descriptions on how much she enjoyed the party while in reality, she had a
terrible time. Speaking the truth would mean she is incapable of enjoying life,
living in the moment, the period of “yes” of everything, the period of “yolo”  especially as a teenager and one should always
be experimenting.  This scene expose an
aspect of the modern society using postmodernism’s notion to give its meaning.

 

The
two scenes of murder offers quite a representation of the concept of copy and original.
First, Oscar took the role of Alex to murder Theo in a warehouse, the confusion
happened when Alex transformed Theo dead body to look like himself. Beside the
hair and few details of skin that can differentiating them, Theo dead body was
the perfect copy of Alex. So when this copy took the last dying breath killing the
original in the very same way and with combination of film editing, we can’t be
sure of the survivor identity who came out of the warehouse. Is it the copy or
the original and does it change a thing after all? The film lets us understand
after, that the survivor is most likely the Original whose came back as Oscar,
who then appeared as an immortal character. The second murder scene confirms
this idea as a new and completely masked character played by Oscar who went to
find the Banker – the first character of the movie played by Oscar – at his
meeting place in order to kill him. The Banker had the exact same appearance
than when we left him and we are sure that Oscar was under that mask. In
response, the bodyguards shot the killer. With the help of his driver, he was
magically saved despite being shot. The event does not make sense, however,
they maybe the purpose as in postmodernism. There is no rule.

 

In a
Cartesian universe, these scenes would probably make no senses. However, in the
last scene of Blade Runner, it gets
us to think about the place and the feeling of the modern Man in front of the
copy, it is surely thanks to its final scene with the apes that Holy Motors took an important meaning.
This scene is a kind of quintessence of the reflexion about the original and
the copy that the film offers and encourages us to think about the evolution
that the modern Man had compare to the apes. Is He a copy or a singular
original?

 

The
post-modern aspect can also be seen from the order that the director,  Leos Carax chose to give to these sequences
and then bring a real meaning, a reflexion on the originality of the Man and
its place in the modern society. A reflexion that might be really personal to
Carax as it is him, at the very beginning of the movie who opened a cinema
theatre door with his finger is a unique key. Isn’t it the major post-modern
aspect of Holy Motors? Exposing
himself on the screen using post-modern codes to give senses where the modern
cinema didn’t?

 

 

Finally,
with the shape of the film, the pictorial dimension with vibrant colours, the round
shapes, the directing, the combination of fantasy and irony, it is clear that Holy Motors can easily join the world of
the post-modern movements.

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