Cosmopolis (2012), Lincoln Lawyer (2011) & Holy Motors (2012)

As a non-driver, the limousine as a form of transport has been quite appealing. My reality constricts me to realise that the likelihood of me swanning around in a limousine is of course nonsense. Not just as regards the practical but also as regards the visual, phallic ridiculousness of the limousine. In some ways, these three films all deal with the sexual possibilities of the vehicle, but mainly we see the limousine as a place of abode, work, a station as to navigate the streets. All three films are varyingly successful. Cosmopolis succeeds best amongst this trilogy, purely based on the level of quality on offer. David Cronenberg's Don DeLillo adaptation was met with a resigned shrug on release, but catching up with this now, Cosmopolis feels like a sharp, witty, cynical and ultimately well acted treatise on the state we're in. Robert Pattinson seems to be Cronenberg' s latest muse (replacing Viggo Mortensen) and also trying to shake off the Twilight tag. Pattinson plays multi-billionaire Eric Packer, gliding around Manhattan in his Limo, looking for a new haircut (with, one must say, an already severe looking thatch). He conducts business from the back seat:  a colon inspection as part of a full on medical, sex with his art dealer (a sexy, razor esque Juliette Binoche cameo), a philosophical encounter with his prime analyst (Samantha Morton), a massage and various other comings and goings. Pattinson has the Patrick Bateman 1000 yard stare down. Cronenberg makes the car the star (some lavish interior shots of the limo give the car a fetishtic quality). Cronenberg references his own Crash movie at times, and the whole film has a similar voyeuristic quality. For me, Cosmopolis re-affirms Cronenberg's position as the master of dark arts, his own stamp of quality– even able to to overcome DeLillo's original imprint and make it his own. Cronenberg still goes deeper and further than any other supposed mainstream director. Cosmopolis retains his and its edge.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a movie that has been given as an example of Matthew McConaughey's re-emergence as a serious actor. The Lincoln Lawyer certainly has moments where it could become more than the routine, almost made for TV quality thriller it actually is. McConaughey plays defence lawyer Haller, who takes on the case of an ultra wealthy client to help clear their name of  murder. Haller is an attorney who bends the rules and uses unorthodox yet successful ways to help his clients. He works out the back of a rather rundown limo, and during the course of the picture makes reference to the back seat as his office. But director Brad Furman doesn't have Cronenberg's vision, and doesn't do anything more than to use the Limo as a long car. Marisa Tomei is wasted as the love-interest. The Lincoln Lawyer seamlessly runs out of interesting plot twists about mid-way through, the second coming of McConaughey had to wait a bit longer.

The Lincoln Lawyer
Here's a confession: we never made it all the way through Holy Motors. I'm not quite sure why not. Holy Motors feels like a Gallic brother to Cosmopolis, certainly in the sense that the movies are thematically similar (at least on the surface) and the limousine remains centre stage and of importance. Here's another feeling: director Leo Carax is mightily pretentious. It shouldn't be a concern (and pretension has never on it's own terms ever ruined anything for me), but I'm beginning to remember why I've never felt the urge to finish this movie. Two other Carax movies I've seen, Pola X and (to a lesser degree) Les Amants Du Pont Neuf also reek of self importance and both have dated badly. Here's the good stuff: Holy Motors is stylish and stunning visually, there is much for the eye to admire (and in this sense, conforms to the essence of great cinema). Denis Lavant (playing various characters) but primarily the mysterious Monsieur Oscar, will go to the world's end for Carax, and often goes to those difficult places here. Kylie Minogue (we should be so lucky and are) steals the film channeling Jean Seberg and Francoise Hardy simultaneously, in a fleeting appearance. That Kylie moment towers over this picture (or what I saw of it). It almost makes it worthwhile. Holy Motors is too clever for its own good. It also peddles some dubious misogyny, the stench of which I can't shake. Yes, Carax can frame a scene and make something interesting from it, but he struggles with empathy and telling a story that's coherent. The Limo as home, workplace, disguise, hospital or other, gets covered in these three movies. The rather dry Canadian still holds sway.
Kylie in Holy Motors
Three movies in limousines – films where a small concentrated and moving space figures largely but very differently. I have the least to say about Holy Motors, because we still have not finished the film. I was simultaneously drawn to its scope, daring and the cartoon-like sexiness, yet the over-artistic fiction and its deepening craziness constantly threatened to kill my interest. And so it did transpire that when we had a break from the film for a couple of nights it turned into months. And we continued on in other limousines...
McConaughey in Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey's limo is not actually a limo per se. Lincoln Lawyer was chosen as a withdrawal symptom after True Detective finished (and before we saw Interstellar). It proved to be a standard thriller – nothing more, but if you are addicted to McConaughey's suffering teary face and anger driven actions, then why not spend an evening worrying about is he a good guy or as evil as his customers. Here the Lincoln was more a mode of travel and an aesthetic effect constructing the lawyer's image. In Cosmopolis the limo has the biggest role of all.

Juliette Binoche in Cosmopolis
Cosmopolis was my favourite by far out of these three movies. I'm a stranger to Robert Pattinson as a vampire, but I found him believable as the young, empty, abusive, rich, intelligent, lost and cruel man he played here. More than believable, he was fascinating and richly deep in his apparent shallowness. Cosmopolis walked on the right side of pretentious – so even though it was hilariously staged and stiff, it danced all the way to the end. Famous actors such as Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti had short moments of glory in the film, as did Samantha Morton. Don Delillo whose book this movie is adapted from, can be sensed somehow in this movie throughout. That's a great thing and it doesn't usually happen with movie adaptations.


Popular Posts