When you’re a hot new director the suitors come calling, studios, the moneymen, famous actors, musicians, and the world is your oyster. Budgets inevitably rise but you’ll make it back, after all you’re an auteur. And given you’re such a genius why not get a little outlandish and do that passion project, you know, that musical about the life cycle of a toad, or how about a Western on roller skates?
This kind of delusion is called the Cimino syndrome. After the Academy Awards of Michael Cimino’s Deer Hunter in 1978, his follow up Heaven’s Gate sunk a studio. His subsequent films have been tainted with his wounding, attempting and failing with by the numbers films like Desperate Hours, before all but disappearing in 1996.
But what if you went the other way? You know, go for broke.
In 1991 Leos Carax made Lovers on the Bridge, the most expensive French film at that time, and whilst popular, it still lost a bunch of money. His last feature was 1999’s controversial incest drama Pola X and since then, perhaps not surprisingly, he’s struggled to get films financed.
With Holy Motors (Icon) you can see why. This film is too good to make money. No wait, too surreal to make money. It comes from a tradition that owes as much to Jodorowsky as Bunel and Cocteau. The beginning is pure Alice in Wonderland, with our main character Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavent) discovering a hole in the wall through which he finds a passageway. In a peculiar moment of cultural zeitgeist the conceit mimics Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, in which the main character cruises around town in a white stretch limo, chauffeured to various appointments. Yet the paths diverge dramatically as Oscar alters his appearance and behaviour dramatically for each appointment. It’s never clear who these appointments are with, and who has arranged them, yet there is an almost collective delusion at play as participants treat him as a father, lover, beggar, you name it. Eva Mendes pops up, as does Kylie Minogue and she is remarkable. Depending on how you see it, the ending is either a slap to the face or complete genius. Nothing in cinema has prepared you for this. For God’s sake give this man more money. We can’t wait another 13 years.
Speaking of surreal and wrong with no easy answers, it’s season cinco for Adult Swim’s Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job (Madman). We’re talking base humour about dihorrea, male lactating, and bad health advice that’s distended, spazzed out and held for too long beyond all uncomfortableness until the gross out idiocy achieves some kind of transcendence. Or doesn’t. It’s a world of dodgy infomercials, marginal chat shows and cheesy skits that hurt as much as they humour. This is surrealism updated for the burger generation, viewed through a prism of ineptitude and z grade television sheen. It’s outsider humour, where not only do they celebrate the random lunatic muttering to himself on a street corner, they give him a recurring role. Not unlike their multitude of guest stars including Marilyn Manson, Ted Danson, Ben Stiller, Patrick Duffy and Will Ferrell as a clown breeder who doesn’t fiddle with his stock.