Leos Carax: On ‘foreign-language films’

Denis Lavant in Holy Motors

When the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded in 2013 French director Leos Carax “Best Foreign Language Film” of 2012 for his movie, “Holy Motors,” Carax sent this audio recording to accept the award in his place.

I’m Leos Carax, director of foreign-language films. I’ve been making foreign-language films all my life. Foreign-language films are made all over the world, of course, except in America. In America, they only make non-foreign-language films. Foreign-language films are very hard to make, obviously, because you have to invent a foreign language, instead of using the usual language. But the truth is, cinema is a foreign language, a language created for those who need to travel to the other side of life. Good night.

Those awards, and the name given them, have always been conceitedly inadequate. So props to Carax.

His “Holy Motors” is really terrific, one of my very favorites. It’s largely a fusion of his earlier works, which I think makes it more pleasing to watch when you’re already familiar with his movies.  Though when trying to recommend it to others I have wondered if it might also work the other way: as an introduction or primer to his movies?

After watching it a second time late last year, I don’t think “Holy Motors” can be appreciated apart from his work as his others movies could. There’s just too much in it and you lose a lot of the richness without it (as with his earlier movies, there’s also a lot in “Holy Motors” that pays homage to a cinema beyond Carax).

Nothing wrong with that either; it certainly doesn’t diminish “Holy Motors,” and it affords us with a reason to watch more Carax if only the U.S. versions of his pictures received a DVD update…

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