Monday, 4 March 2013

Holy Motors

Or, more accurately: What on earth was that?
Unlike anything I have ever seen (always a good thing of course), though it reminded me of David Lynch and of Cronenberg’s recent Cosmopolis, Holy Motors is yet another 2012 film about a man riding through a city in a limousine. This time the city is Paris and the man is an actor of sorts moving from one ‘appointment’ to the next. At each appointment, the man (whose name is Oscar, which is certainly not a coincidence) puts on another outrageous disguise and goes out to play another role, usually in the company of others who may (or may not?) also be actors like him. 
Holy Motors is an incredibly bizarre film. Maybe insane is a better word. There is no explanation offered for why Oscar does what he does, there is no obvious attempt to explain what the film is really about, and I have yet to figure out what the title is meant to signify (if anything). There is just this surreal gorgeously-filmed collection of scenes which float through Paris almost like dreams. 
Each of the scenes represents a different film genre, from family drama to horror to film noir to romantic musical to thriller to sci-fi and so on. It must be meant as some kind of ride through the history of cinema, but is there more to it? I keep thinking there must be; maybe something about the masks we all wear as we encounter different situations in life? Holy Motors begs for a second viewing and so I may revisit this question soon.
Holy Motors was written and directed by French director Leos Carax and stars Denis Lavant as Oscar. There are no adequate words to describe Lavant’s awesome performance. It is difficult to compare his work with that of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln because the roles are so different, but Lavant deserves an Oscar for playing Oscar.
Infuriatingly enigmatic, Holy Motors gets an automatic ***+ for being so weird and may get **** after I watch it again. But this French film is certainly not aimed at your average viewer, so be warned. My mug is up, but there’s a strange brew bubbling inside.


  1. I can't say that this makes me interested (and what I'd heard before made me ambivalent as well). Part of the problem is that I hate the recent interest in films about film. What is that? So often the result seems to be something for insiders - don't bother watching if you're not one of the elite. And part of the intensity of my reaction is biased critical reaction (from insiders). I'm thinking of responses to Hugo and The Artist which seemed more than what was warranted from the films themselves. But this is no doubt an unfair rant from someone who hasn't seen the film.

  2. A comment within half an hour!! That deserves to be rewarded by a timely response.

    I understand your comment very well and generally agree with it. While I am by no means sure you would enjoy Holy Motors, I don't fell this is in quite the same category as the two films you mention (which I also enjoyed). Holy Motors may be a film about film but it's allusions are so vague that I believe it is aimed more at an arthouse audience looking for something different than at insiders (IMHO).

  3. Yeah I feel like the fact the Holy Motors was ignored by the Oscars despite somewhat explicitly being about film (and having a main character named Oscar) is evidence to the fact that this is quite different from Hugo or The Artist. Nice review.