An intuition I (too) briefly explored in May 2011 though an article entitled The Paradigm of Modern Cinema: The Cinematographic Introspection (Godard, Fellini, Truffaut, Assayas & Hansen-Love) was attributing (again this is just an intuition) the key element of modernity in art to the ability it had to introspect itself thought its very existence. The examples I then gave were quite literal as they were films that were dramatizing the very act of film making. A more recent movie motivates me to attempt to explore this topic a bit more: Holy Motors by Leos Carax (2012). Because this film approaches the introspection in a more indirect way than the previously quoted others, it might give us a clue about what makes this modern method interesting and expressive.
In Holy Motors, the main character embodied by Denis Lavant is followed during one (evidently typical) day of his life in which he goes from “appointment” to “appointment”. The latter constitutes as many roles he incarnates like an actor would in front of the camera. However, there is no other camera here than the one that we find in each film, invisible, and which allow us, the spectator to watch the movie. That is how L.Carax progressively blurs the limits between reality (in the film) and fiction (again, in the film) in a clear manifesto for this ambiguity. In doing so, we are not only wandering/wondering in the realms of representation but, more importantly, we are being questioned about our very human condition. This is not to say, of course, that we all play a role thus perpetually hiding of our “true self”. Rather, it questions the fact that what we really are might be the sum of the point of views that the otherness develops on us.
This is obvious in the cinematographic construction which necessities a camera to give existence to what the latter frames and sees; however this film proposes the hypothesis according to which it may just as much be true in our lives. As said in the movie, the “beauty of the act” only exists if there is “a beholder”, even if the beholder is the actor him(her)self. This hypothesis is certainly a phenomenological one (a rare thing on this blog!). Nevertheless, isn’t cinema (along with photography) the art that belongs the most to phenomenology in its very essence i.e. the capture of light in order to encode a recognizable mode of representation?
All following images excerpt from Holy Motors (2012)