Where to begin with this strange and beguiling film? Holy Motors is an experience like none other. For two hours, I was taken on an incredible journey and entered the lives of Monsieur Oscar’s many characters. Holy Motors is energetic, crazy and pure cinematic bliss.
The movie begins with a dark, sort of dreamlike quality. A man wakes up and feels along a wall for a door. He opens it to an auditorium full of people watching a film. Strange things are walking down the aisles, and then we’re snapped to morning and a huge modern mansion, just outside Paris. We see a wealthy man, obviously a banker, leave and say goodbye to his family. Monsieur Oscar enters his white limo, along with his chauffeur, Celine, and they head off to work. Only work is not what you expect, for every time Oscar leaves the limo, he’s different person playing a different part. He has nine appointments, nine people to play today. The inside of his limo is full of costumes, make-up and prosthetics. We watch him prepare to be and play homeless beggar woman, a motion-capture actor, a beast, an old dying man, a father and many more.
There’s not much rhyme or reason to Holy Motors. It’s completely nuts, but it’s hard not to embrace all the craziness. It’s visceral and dream-like. It gets your blood pumping and makes you laugh. It captures the beauty of the weird and perverse. In that way, it’s so arresting. I loved seeing the ease of Monsieur Oscar’s transformations into many different characters. It says so much about how talented Denis Lavant is, who played Oscar. It was never boring, or once it got slow, Oscar was already transitioning into a new character. In addition, there’s no true explanation for why he does what he does, besides his love for performance art. There’s no visible cameras recording his performances; it’s just him playing these people in the real world, or at least what you think is the real world. That makes me believe that he does it all for us, the audience.
There’s humor and emotion laced throughout the film. The humor is dark, strange, and oddly shocking. (That definitely goes for Eva Mendes’ part in the film.) The emotion in Oscar’s scene with Kylie Minogue’s character gives us the smallest glimpse in to who Oscar may really be. We’re so busy seeing him play other characters, that it’s never clear who he is. Then there’s the question of if it is looking for poetic meaning? The weirdness may warp it, but it’s there, even if it doesn’t make as big of an impression as it would like. In ways, it’s mourning the death of cinema, yet this movie proves itself wrong with its liveliness.
Holy Motors is full of mad and breathtaking moments. How can you not love a movie that has a sick accordion jam session through a cathedral? It’s one of the most unforgettable sequences of just not this film, but of all the films this year. If you love film, it’s a crime to miss out on Holy Motors. Writer/Director Leos Carax has created a truly one of a kind masterpiece.
Rating: 9/10 ★★★★★★★★★
Holy Motors is now playing in select theaters.