Human Flower Project
Monsieur Oscar’s Fast Food
From “Please, Don’t Eat the Daisies” to “Holy Motors,” devouring flowers takes on a sinister new flavor.
A wild image of French actor Denis Lavant is making the rounds this week. Have you seen it? Eyes crossed and bare chest exposed beneath his jacket, he is running down the street chomping a bundle of red daisies.
Lavant portrays an ogre known mysteriously (and wittily) as Monsieur Oscar in Holy Motors, a new film by Leos Carax that just screened to applause and boos at the Cannes Film Festival.
One critic explains, “Mr. Oscar advances through his list of jobs – an old beggar woman, an assassin, a businessman, a father, a dying old man, a deranged, violent monster who eats flowers and kidnaps supermodels.”
In this age of downsizing, Mr. O demonstrates admirable resilience and quite a lot of energy, a far more entrepreneurial route than our own jagged career path. The list of unremunerated occupations lengthens, but “assassin” presumably still pays well.
Denis Lavant as Monsieur Oscar in Holy Motors
Photo: Cannes Film Festival/European Pressphoto Agency
Ulrich Beck and Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim, German sociologists, have written insightfully on this topic of uncertain work.
“As the range of options widens and the necessity of deciding between (sic) them grows, so too does the need for individually performed actions, for adjustment, co-ordination, integration. If they are not to fail, individuals must be able to plan for the long term and adapt to change: they must organize and improvise, set goals, recognize obstacles, accept defeats and attempt new starts. They need initiative, tenacity, flexibility and tolerance of frustration.”
We understand that in Holy Motors, these conditions produce “a scenario where organisms and visible machines share a common superfluity.” Looking out in the street now, where people with cell phones squashed against their heads maneuver cars, it seems we’ve arrived. Superfluity it is (are)!
Those who’ve seen Carax’s film may be able to tell us how the plot sets up this devouring of flowers as fast-food. Till then we’ll see it as one contemporary monster-man’s hunger and the “improvisation” required to sate it.