I’m still processing the film “Holy Motors,” which rolled into Fantastic Fest this week. What’s taking me next to no time in dismissing is the music video for the song “Flower.” What they both have in common is Kylie Minogue.
“Holy Motors” is a dream-like cinematic history lesson and funeral, through the lens of director Leos Carax who unveils his own personality through actor Denis Lavant. Lavant is led through a series of “appointments,” movie scenes in which he must act: he plays a killer, a father, a monster, an executive, a woman, a man who’s dying… among these, he’s also lead love interest, during a break from his appointments with a lost lover, Ms. Minogue. She, of course, is also playing yet another character, one who breaks into song like in a movie musical.
After an excruciatingly sad walk with Lavant’s Oscar near piles of
metaphors mannequins in a department store, suddenly she has a backing of a full orchestra, with a sweeping melody about “Who We Were” in English, after most of the movie’s dialogue has been in French. It’s another deception (or dream, depending on who you ask), but made their abstract relationship to each other heartachingly tangible. This is helped by the fact that Minogue is a pop singer, not a Broadway star: the voice is thinner, idiosyncratic, limited in range but personable. Plus, she is well-known — movie-star famous — and it’s no accident that Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” plays early on in the movie. It’s one of many self-referential moments.
On the other hand, Minogue’s new video for ballad “Flower” only seems to refer exclusively to the late-1990s, without out a hint of awareness (or art, for that matter). It’s tough to watch her with such acting potential and simple material and have it airlifted and later die at a hospital to the strains of lyrics like “Wrapped in a blanket of hope / Asleep in bed of dreams… who knows which way the wind is gonna blow / I”m waiting for your gentle whisper.” It’s like a romance novelist writing copy for a fabric softener ad.
Beyond that, it’s slo-mo and a high-pollen count for Minogue, as she drapes herself on patio furniture and exposes a silky nightgown to the harsh husks of flowing grasses. Minogue looks great — she always looks great — but the visuals are lacking as much as the song does.
Part of my attraction to her work in “Holy Motors” is the mix of lush arrangements and that girlish, sultry voice of hers. Maybe it’s a good sign for her orchestral “Abbey Road Sessions.” But then again, previously unreleased “Flower” is on there, too. Quick, key change!
Kylie Minogue’s “The Abbey Road Sessions” is out on Nov. 6.