Holy Motors: The Surprising Erection in a Great Movie
This excellent movie begins with a rich man (Denis Lavant) who, after waking up from a dream set in a movie theater, walks out of his heavily guarded mansion (which is in the style of moderne architecture), says good-bye to his happy daughters, enters a stretch limo, and leaves to work. What does this man do? Why does he need two armed guards in a BMW following the limo all day? Is he an arms dealer? Is he a corrupt politician? Is he banker? How does he make his mountains of money? The rich man has several assignments that day, the first of which is being a beggar on a busy Paris street; the next, being an action figure for a motion-capture company; next, being a monster in a cemetery. As the movie progresses, the assignments become stranger and stranger—one involves the rich man assassinating himself, a banker; another, the rich man coming home to a family of chimpanzees. In the middle of this, we begin to wonder if the rich man at the beginning was also an assignment or if the man with the chimpanzees is the real man. The film answers nothing and leaves all of its balls wonderfully suspended in the air.
Now let's talk about the scene that contains Denis Lavant's erection. It appears right after the monster of the cemetery (each tombstone has the words "Visit My Website" above a URL) interrupts a fashion photo shoot, grabs the model (Eva Mendes), and carries her into the sewers. The erection is not big and not too small, and it points upward (this is amazing, considering Lavant's age, 51—the older a man gets, the more his erection points to his grave). The reason why one takes notice of this normal-sized erection is because erections in general are almost never shown in films, even art house films. But why are erections banished to the realm of XXX? Because you can never act an erection. An erection is always what it is—an erection. Meaning, it reveals sexual excitement. An actor can kiss another actor and we can believe he/she is acting, that the kiss is not real, that there is no sexual excitement going on here. But you can't have an erection without hardcore interest, without desire, without wanting to put it in a hand, mouth, or hole.
The monster turns and shows the model his hard stuff. But the erection evaporates the illusion of the actors, and we end up seeing only Lavant and Mendes, two adults in a real sexual situation. How strange it is to see it all up and ready like that in a movie. SIFF Cinema Uptown, Jan 11–17.