Colloquium | Iggy Cortez

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 12:00pm

Iggy Cortez

"Céline, We Have to Laugh Before Midnight": Holy Motors and the Digital Night

Numerous critics have observed that Leos Carax’s Holy Motors (2012) is a highly self-reflexive film tracking the remediations of “old” filmmaking techniques into new digital technologies. However, while most of the film was shot at night using a digital camera, little attention has been paid to its relationship with the nocturnal. This paper addresses how Holy Motors extends and interrogates nighttime’s long association with techniques of virtual simulation in cinema - from blue tinting to “day for night” processes and postproduction coloring. Holy Motors’ representation of nighttime is accordingly differentiated, simultaneously accommodating spectacles of artificial light while also showcasing moments of visually unyielding darkness. This oscillation between inflated vision and blindness parallels the film’s relation to the body as a figure of both physical virtuosity as well as exhaustion and precarity. Nocturnal darkness is thus an elusive though central component of Holy Motors’ mise-en-scène, materializing the aesthetic capacities and technical limits of digital filmmaking while also interrogating neoliberal practices reshaping our experience of time into uninflected cycles of production and consumption. But despite the film’s acknowledgment of night’s expanding networks of surveillance and capital, I argue that it ultimately reclaims night’s alliance with liminality and alterity by transforming cinema’s interstices and limits into new objects of regard and possibility.

Iggy Cortez is a PhD candidate in the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania where he specializes in Cinema Studies and Contemporary Art. Previously, he earned an MA with Distinction from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London and a BA with Honors in the History of Art from Columbia University. Earlier this year, he curated Itinerant Belongings with Charlotte Ickes, a multisite exhibition and series of events featuring the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Yael Bartana, William Pope.L and Krzysztof Wodiczko among others. His dissertation project focuses on the aesthetic, political and ethical implications of nighttime filmmaking across a range of cinematic media.

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