Watch: Leos Carax's 'Merde,' the Hilariously Bizarre Inspiration for 'Holy Motors'

Watch: Leos Carax's 'Merde,' the Hilariously Bizarre Inspiration for 'Holy Motors'

Dec 10, 2012

One of the more memorable parts of Leos Carax's Holy Motors comes when Denis Lavant dresses up and takes on the character of a man from the sewer, who's equal parts deranged wandering vagabond and bizarre sewer animal (troll? rat?). When he's above ground, he speed-walks haphazardly around with very little sense of purpose or direction, eating flowers, knocking things over, stealing items and just plain acting like the world's biggest nuisance. It's all pretty comical to watch -- especially when he interrupts a classy photoshoot and abducts the model (played by Eva Mendes) -- and you may be interested in learning (for those who don't already know) that it was this character that first inspired Holy Motors after he appeared in a short film Carax made back in 2008.

Carax first introduced the character (also played by Lavant) during his portion of the anthology film Tokyo, which is a series of short films shot in and around Tokyo, Japan directed by Joon-ho Bong, (The Host), Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Leos Carax. The latter's short is Merde, and it's an entire 40-minute movie about "the man from the sewer," who pops out of a manhole and begins to terrorize the citizens of Tokyo, all Godzilla-like.

Watch it below [via Cinephilia & Beyond] ...

Leos Carax, on how Merde helped fuel Holy Motors: "Holy Motors was born of my incapacity to carry out several projects, all of them in another language and another country. They all ran into the same two obstacles: casting and cash. Fed up with not being able to film, I used Merde, which had been commissioned in Japan, as inspiration. I commissioned myself to make a project under the same conditions, but in France - come up with an inexpensive film, quickly, for a preselected actor. All of it made possible by digital cameras, which I despise (they are imposing themselves or being imposed on us), but which seem to reassure everyone." -- from an interview with Jean-Michel Frodon.

When Tokyo came out, Carax discussed the making of his portion alongside Michel Gondry, with both filmmakers complaining about the strange rules when it comes to filming in Tokyo. It was so difficult at times to shoot that Carax had to get Merde's two long tracking shots (one of which opens the short) in only one take.

From an interview with Reverse Shot: "But the thing is, there's no police in Tokyo—you never see the police. But as soon as you start doing something you're not supposed to do, people call the police with their cell phones. Every time, really. They have a perfect system—they don't really need the police to be there. But both of the long shots in Merde—the first shot, and the shot with the grenades—we only had time to do them once and then disappear. And it's a mix of real people and actors.

Later on in the interview, Carax talks about his original inspiration for the character: "Well, I suppose first I had this vision of this guy coming out of the sewer, a kind of absurd terrorist killing people for no reason, just hating people and hating anything people have to say. Then when they proposed the film Tokyo!, I thought, okay, I'll see what can happen there. But I don't think I know anything about Tokyo, Japan—I've been there, I had been there, but I had no real fascination for the city. I just used the fact that it's such a closed country, an island, so racist and conservative. I used that, and a few images from pop culture, like Godzilla. But there's not that much of Tokyo in the film."

Tokyo is currently available through Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. Holy Motors is still playing in select theaters, and you can look for it on DVD/Blu-ray this February.

Follow along on Twitter @ErikDavis and @Moviesdotcom.


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