Leos Carax doesn't like to make eye contact. Typically hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, the soft-spoken French director is notoriously unkind to the interview process. But Carax, who burst onto the arthouse scene with his inventive '80s cinematic wonders "Boy Meets Girl" and "Mauvais Sang," then followed them with the batty romance "Lovers on the Bridge" and the Melville adaptation "Pola X," has created enough energized cinema to prove he's got plenty to say.
The latest example is Carax's "Holy Motors," the Cannes competition feature that has been making the rounds on the festival circuit and recently landed at the New York Film Festival. Re-teaming with "Lovers on the Bridge" star Denis Lavant, Carax tells the bizarre story of a chameleonesque man who plays dozens of characters in the span of a single day -- from the creepy sewer creature Lavant originally played in Carax's contribution to the anthology film "Tokyo!" to an elderly man on his deathbed, an old beggar woman and an athletic actor covered in motion-capture diodes.
Carax's most cryptically provocative achievement, "Holy Motors" is scheduled to hit New York theaters October 17, followed by a wider release in November. While in town for the NYFF, the director sat down with Indiewire at the Soho Grand to discuss the new movie and his future ambitions.
This is your first feature in 13 years and certainly your most ambitious work. How did you expect people would receive "Holy Motors" when it first premiered at Cannes?
The film was imagined very quickly. I thought it would be really difficult, that it would be too strange for people.
Were you nervous?
No. I just thought, "There's really nothing I can do right now."
It's no secret that you aren't crazy about doing interviews and especially loathe being asked to interpret your work. But "Holy Motors" is a movie that forces people to try to understand it.
I mostly don't submit to talking about my work because I would like another talk about real life. I don't think men were meant to be interviewed.
But men have been talking about art ever since they created it.
Men talk about art, and artists make art, but should artists talk?
How did you get around the need to explain "Holy Motors" when you were in earlier conversations about the movie with investors and producers?
I started making films when I was young, and at the time it was a compete bluff. I had never made a movie. I had studied films but I had never been on the set of one. When I made my first film, I had hardly ever seen a camera before, and I was a young man when I arrived in Paris from the suburbs. At the time, I didn't talk much. I was very shy, so the bluff served me. I was telling people that I had no money, and that I knew how to make films, but I had no proof. I was lucky to find people who believed in me. Very few filmmakers are good at talking about their work, very few artists are good at talking about their work.
Still, it's impossible not to feel the need to interpret "Holy Motors" and get the sense that it's being fueled by big ideas. When you watch it, are there ideas that speak to you that you feel are worthy of analysis?
I spent so little time imagining the film. The whole thing took two weeks. It was a race. I didn't watch my dailies, I didn't read exactly what I was doing. I only went over it at the editing table. Although I don't make films for anybody, I do make films, therefore I do make them for someone: I make them for the dead. But then I show them to living people that I start to think about while I'm editing -- who'll watch them? So I start to get more reflexive at the editing table. Why did I imagine this science-fiction word? I did invent a genre that doesn't exist. But I don't have the real answers.