What to say about possibly the year’s most bat-shit-crazy and perplexing film? Well, despite Leos Carax’s near 13-year absence from the big screen, he clearly hasn’t lost any of his thirst for the bizarre.
Set in a mirroring reality, Holy Motors is a day in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shape-shifter and impersonator who moulds himself into various characters and monsters for an ambiguously presented audience. This is an odyssey in the strange life of one man in a limo. And as Eric Packer so facetiously asks in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, “Where do all these limos go at night?” The answer is clearly in Leos Carax’s garage.
But like Cosmopolis, rarely are the senses thrilled and are instead left cold. If the occasions of madness offer anything, it is that at times they only translate as somewhat infantile, even if there is a level of Rick Baker-like grotesqueness to indulge in. If there was a message to be found, it was buried behind each of Monsieur Oscar’s many masks.
Though the narrative slumps into a stream of consciousness, where at first the narrative is beguiling and intriguing, Denis Lavant offers a multi-character performance piece that almost carries every fault. If he were part of a back-alley cirque du freak, you’d pay – with trepidation – to be in the front row.
Amongst the supporting acts in this circus is Eva Mendes as a catatonic model who is captured by Oscar’s slobbering hermit character, though she hardly offers, nor is allowed to offer, very much. Young Jeanne Disson stars as an upset teenager and continues her fine work from Tomboy in a small but maturely played role. Michel Piccoli, however, is more criminally underused as the ‘boss from up top’ and gives the impression his character was largely left on the cutting room floor. In fact, it’s very easy to forget these characters altogether, asking a much more pertinent question about the film as a whole: Is there any ‘point’ to these vignettes?
A cheap question yes, but one that the film begs you to ask.
Among the film’s surprises though is the sterling performance of Kylie Minogue. In a more restrained sequence, Carax allows for a quiet and tragic love story to play out between Oscar and a lost romance. Here the ball and chain of his job seems at its heaviest.
On whatever side of the fence you fall for Holy Motors – and believe it, there is no fence to sit on with this film – articulating why exactly you agree with, or oppose, it is near on futile. And although this particular reviewer found little to enjoy, how can you argue against a film that has awoken audiences to the wonders of surrealism? Maybe sometimes it’s better to enjoy the wonder, instead of just wondering.
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