Weekend Roundup: Holy Motors and Mrs Brown

Happy Monday everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend. Still can’t believe two months have come and gone in 2013. Well, because of the press screenings that usually take place on weekends, I don’t go to the cinema on weekends. Here are my mini reviews of the two movies I saw:

Holy Motors (2012)

HolyMotorsPosterI have to admit I have not heard of this French film at all until a few months ago when I read some really rave reviews of this. It sounds so batty and bizarre, and though I don’t really have a huge taste for surreal cinema but I was intrigued enough to check this out.

From dusk ’til dawn, we follow a man by the name of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) traveling by a white limousine around Paris to a series of nine “appointments.” His chauffeur Celine makes sure he gets to each of those appointments in time, and at each stop, Mr. Oscar transform into new character, one more bizarre than others, but we’re never told just why he does this. From a gypsy beggar, to a motion capture artist like Andy Serkis, he does his own make up and disguise in his well-equiped limo.

The two most bizarre ones to me is when he’s dressed like a leprechaun-looking thing and kidnaps a fashion model (Eva Mendez, channeling Cindy Crawford here) during a photo shoot at a Parisian cemetery and takes her into a cave. It gets even more bizarre after that, trust me. And the other one is the motion capture stuff where he’s doing all kinds of Ninja moves, and then a woman dressed in the mo-cap suit with all the dot markers and the two start to perform a sex act inside a digital production facility and being projected as some reptilian beings on the monitor screen.

The film’s narrative is quite challenging to follow, not to mention the fact that we have no clue just who Mr. Oscar is and why he does what he does. I was willing to go along for the ride and oh, what a trip this is. Director Leos Carax mixes all kinds of genres, as iTunes described it, it’s a monster movie, film noir, romantic drama, musical, crime thriller, futuristic sex fantasia rolled into one, yet it also defies each and everyone of that genre at the same time. It reminds me of Paris, je t’aime a bit but with just one actor in its multiple ‘storyline.’ It’s tough for me to even explain just what’s going on throughout the 2-hour running time, I think if you’re curious about it, just go see it.


My favorite segment is of Mr. Oscar and Jean (Kylie Minogue) where she sang the movie’s theme song Who Were We. I’m still humming that lovely song, it has kind of a haunting quality about it. The music is actually quite memorable here, there’s also an accordion interlude called ‘Let my Baby Ride’ that’s quite awesome. My late mother played the accordion so that instrument holds a special place in my heart.

I’m not surprised this film won so many film festival awards, and was nominated at Cannes and César. I’d even think it’s worthy to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar. The cinematography is beautiful and unique, it shows various parts of Paris that’s not always all romantic. Lavant’s performance was noteworthy to be sure, that’s got to be a challenging role for any actor. Holy Motors is perhaps more of a cinematic experiment than a conventional film. I don’t think this fantasy film is for everyone though, but I do think if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, you might actually enjoy it. I know I did, and parts of me are weird-ed out by it, even terrified at times, but also mesmerized at the same time. Yet it’s also strangely moving, it somehow appeals to my heart even when my brain fails to comprehend just what is happening. In a sea of movies that lack imagination and originality, I certainly appreciate it when something offbeat like this comes along.

four reels

Her Majesty Mrs. Brown (1997)

MrsBrownPosterIt’s been ages since I saw this film and I have to admit that my initial interest in this film was because my former crush Gerry Butler had a supporting role here. This is in fact his feature film debut.

This film stayed with me for years and has become one of my favorite films about the British monarchs. This would make a great double feature with The Young Victoria, as that one depict the royal romance between her and Prince Albert. In this one, the Queen is in a depressed state following the death of her husband and the whole Balmoral estate is pretty much in a state of mourning as a result.

John Brown is brought in especially as he was one of Albert’s favorite servants. His rather irreverent, frank behavior doesn’t exactly bode well for the royal staff, but soon he found favor with the Queen and their unlikely friendship proved to be good for her mental health. No doubt their relationship created a stir, as you could imagine how scandalous it is for a queen to be hanging out with the queen. There’s of course jealousy arising amongst the queen’s advisers who saw their own influence diminishing as the Queen favored Brown’s advice. The staff, as well as the Queen’s own son the Prince of Wales (Bertie), think Brown’s influence is bad for the Queen’s reputation.

What I love most about this film is the unlikely friendship between two people from two very different worlds. It’s such a pity that someone in the Queen’s position could not confide in anyone even at a time she needed to most, everyone in her circle seemed only concerned about their own status in connection to her. Brown on the other hand, did not care about status nor power. He might be stubborn and hard to deal with at times, but he genuinely cared for the Queen and protective of her well-being. He even shushed a bunch of ‘paparazzi’ who followed the royal party hunting.


Dame Judi Dench is superb, her Oscar-nomination here is well-deserved. It’s a brilliantly astute portrayal that displayed her incredible range. Whether it’s conveying inconsolable grief or a subtle hint of glee following a robust dance with Mr. Brown, she’s always so believable. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast here in a dramatic role. I’ve always found his comedic style rather impudent, and there’s a bit of that here, but he’s so natural as John Brown and he has an effortless chemistry with Dench. Butler’s pretty effective in his small role as Brown’s younger brother Archie. Boy his Scottish accent was still sooo thick here, it’s funny that he’s been cast as Americans nowadays as he still can’t lose that brogue completely. Oh, there’s also an amusing scene of the two of them running into a cold lake fully nude 😉

I adore this film and the cinematography of the lush Scottish Highlands are absolutely stunning. I guess John Madden and Dame Judi have a great rapport together. She also won an Oscar under his direction in Shakespeare in Love for only being on screen for a mere eight minutes!!

four reels

I also saw BBC’s 2007 version of Persuasion, mainly to see Rupert Penry-Jones as Capt. Wentworth. I like parts of this movie, but overall it leaves me wanting. This is such a wonderful story of lost love and second chances that deserves a worthy adaptation. Ah well, I’ll leave that for a future post 🙂

Well, that’s my weekend recap. What about you? Seen anything good?

51 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Holy Motors and Mrs Brown

  1. Great post Ruth. I also watched Holy Motors this weekend and I just couldn’t connect with it. It seemed like every time it pulled me in it would push me back. I also found myself turned off by a couple of the more risqué “assignments”. On the flipside it’s beautifully filmed the Lavant’s performance is amazing. I also thought the accordion jam session was incredible. I watched it about seven or eight times. Incredible music and I kept trying to identify the church they were playing in.

    I have no problem with eccentric or experimental filmmaking. But for me this one was all over the place, so much so that I passed on writing a review for it. But I have been interested in the different reviews I’ve read. It makes me wonder if I need to give it a second look.

    1. That’s interesting that we both watched Holy Motors on the same weekend. We weren’t even planning on it, we actually wanted to see Contact, and then Arbitrage, and for some reason ended up seeing this. I’m with you about the more risqué “assignments” but at the same time I had braced myself to see things completely out of my comfort zone. Glad you agree that it’s beautifully-filmed and Lavant’s performance is incredible!

      I think the nature of experimental cinema is that it’s often incoherent. I hear ya that you don’t want to write a review of it, I thought I’d too but for some reason I kept “writing” the review of it in my head so I decided to put it down on paper, ahah.

      1. It’s funny, I’ve jotted down notes that almost read like a review so I may review it still. But out of fairness for the movie I still need to think on it more. I certainly don’t dismiss it because there’s been too much praise for the movie. It was just a hard one for me a latch onto.

  2. You know my thoughts on Mrs. Brown Ruth but Holy Motors sounds superb. Sounds likesonething I could really get into. I love film’s of this type. Great reviews.

    1. Awww Mark, I really think you should give Mrs Brown a try despite your aversion to movies about the royal family. It’s a well-written story and again, watch it for your brethren 😀

      I think Holy Motors is worth a watch man, and if you like that kind of films then I think you’d enjoy it very much.

  3. PrairieGirl

    I’m right there with you on Mrs. Brown, a wonderful film. And, needless to say, Gerry’s and Billy’s plunge into the lake is a cherished part of my “collection.” (smile!)

    1. Ahahahaha, cherished collection indeed! Y’know, with the way they shot that scene, you could actually see *more* than I thought initially, especially Billy’s. Those Scots are not prudish are they? Gerry’s still so pale here, now he looks like a roasted salmon!!

    1. I didn’t even know if it made it to theaters here where I live. If it weren’t for a couple of bloggers’ reviews, I wouldn’t even know it existed. Now if only I could remember whose review it was that I read.

    1. Well, I don’t know what your taste for surreal cinema is. I know I’m usually not into something THIS bizarre, but I certainly didn’t regret watching it. Oh Life of Pi is wonderful, and the music is awesome too!

  4. I plan on checking out Holy Motors as well. For a movie that was hard to see in theaters, its also difficult to rent because RedBox doesn’t have it! I’ll find a way somehow.

    1. I saw it on iTunes. I can’t rely on Netflix and haven’t really bothered w/ Redbox as it’s so cumbersome to wait in line just to return something. Hope you get to see this at some point Max.

  5. Ted S.

    I saw the trailer for Holy Motors a while back, prob rent it some day. It does look like one of David Lynch’s weirder films.

    I finally got the Bluray copy of Lawrence of Arabia, it was on sale a couple of weeks ago, so I watched that over the weekend. It’s such a treat to see it in HD, it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time. Wish I could’ve seen it on the big 70mm screen back when it came out in theaters in the 60s.

    1. Ahah yeah, I could see Lynch liking this movie.

      Oh that’s cool that you got Lawrence of Arabia. That’s always nice when you see an old favorite as if it’s for the first time. I’d love to borrow it one of these days 😉

      1. Ted S.

        Sure I’ll lend it to you the next time I see you. The HD transfer is amazing, which explains why it took forever to hit Bluray, they spent a lot of time making sure the disc look and sounds perfect.

    2. I can’t believe I don’t have this on blu-ray yet. Although I did go see it in the theater recently and interestingly enough they played a lot of the special features before the film so maybe that’s why I haven’t been a rush to get it.

      1. Ted S.

        I wanted to check it out on the big screen last fall but just didn’t have time. Wish we have a true 70mm theater here in MN, I know that they showed it on 70mm theater somewhere in CA. It’s on sale for about $10 on Amazon so I couldn’t resist and bought it, I think the price went back up to $18 again.

  6. Yay! You liked Holy Motors! I feel the same way you do, Ruth, except I just love the whole thing. 🙂 I rewatched it over the weekend, and it’s still a fascinating film. The “Who Were We” and accordion scenes are two of my favorites as well.

    I’ve been meaning to see Her Majesty Mrs. Brown for a while. I really should do that soon.

    1. Oh then it must’ve been YOUR review I read that made me want to see this. Glad I did Josh. I think it’s fascinating overall but as you know I don’t like overly sexual or violent scenes. The music is the real highlight for sure.

      Mrs Brown is lovely and well-acted all around. I just love Dame Judi, she displays such vulnerability in this one.

  7. I have Holy Motors all ready to go but I’ve been working late and after a certain time of day I can’t do subtitles.This is right up my alley. Can’t wait to see it Ruth. Denis Lavant is an interesting character actor. He did a real one of a kind movie that I saw in the theater back in ’99 called Tuvalu. The film has sound but almost no dialogue. Part Lynch, part Fellini. Here’s the trailer:

    He also did this cool video for the DJ Shadow/UNKLE/Thom Yorke of Radiohead collaboration directed by renowned video director Jonathan Glazer. There is a certain special effect used at the end of the video that was quite stunning when it came out. It won several awards and has been copied in numerous movies since. It’s worth your while to make to the end. The link below was the best version I could find.

    1. Thanks for the clips as always, Dave. I figured Lavant probably has a ton of theater experience. He seems so natural in ALL of the various *appointments.* It’s a courageous role, I can’t imagine a lot of actors pull it off as well as he did.

    1. I think both of these are definitely worth seeing Fernando. And if you’re a fan of Dame Judi, Mrs. Brown is a MUST! She was nominated for an Oscar for her performance here.

  8. I’m definetly going to check those out soon, I heard a lot about Holy Motors and I think I have to see it for myself, the movie definetly sounds like an interesting experience.

    Never heard of Her majesty Mrs. Brown, but it sounds great and I love movies about British monarchs, they all had such great stories.

    1. Holy Motors is definitely an experience that’s quite unlike any other, Sati. As for Mrs Brown, oh it’s a MUST if you like British monarch. I remember you like Young Victoria, so you definitely should check this out.

    1. Yeah, I think you’re right, I could’ve easily come out of it w/ disdain, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case. It was weird to be sure, but very watchable and there are some truly beautiful, albeit perplexing, moments.

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  11. aaaah Holy Motors! Wasn’t sure if I was going to hate it but it has such a great sense of humour that I loved pretty much every minute! Never seen Mrs Brown but must do one day!

    1. Yeah, there are tons of quirky humor in Holy Motors! Mrs Brown is VERY good Pete, definitely worth a look for the story and Dame Judi’s acting prowess.

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