Holy art-house readers!
Director: Leos Carax
Runtime: 115 minutes
Cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the shadowy life of a mystic man named Monsieur Oscar.
Holy Motors is a bizarre film; we follow Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) who spends his day doing strange jobs, going from one to the other via taxi. Each job is a miniature movie in its own right (at least for the most part) and the idea appears to be something like showing movie-making and acting in a ludicrous light – the futility and pointlessness of it all. Perhaps the film is about life though, moving from one job to another, without any kind of freedom, working for “the man” – or perhaps there is no meaning, just a bunch of stuff that happens.
We are never given an explanation of why Oscar needs to do these jobs (we can guess it’s for money), he just does them. We do get to know him and his driver, Céline (Edith Scob) throughout the film, who seem about as perplexed as the viewer at times; so there is some kind of narrative present. However, I feel the whole thing comes across as a little disjointed and too bizarre, only held together by fine cinematography and acting.
Indeed, Denis Lavant is excellent throughout, no matter what is thrown at him – as he has been throughout his career (indeed, one could argue that the film is even about him). And Lavant’s performance is only improved by the fine cinematography throughout the film; this is a film that showcases filmmaking talent, but does so whilst not allowing us to get into the experience it is too “out there” for its own good.
For example, there is a section that invokes Beauty and the Beast or anything of that ilk, but it is just a little nasty and appears to serve little point beyond showcasing the fantastic lead actor and cinematography – Holy Motors is an exercise in imagery, and an experiment in narrative. It’s just a shame there wasn’t a bit more to the film.
If Holy Motors succeeds in anything, it is in confusing the viewer – and I get the feeling this was entirely intentional. This is the kind of film that won’t become a favourite, but it does have memorable scenes throughout its runtime. Director Leos Carax has made a great advertisement for his lead actor and cameraman, just not a great movie for the viewing public.
Holy Motors is a strange experience, full of filmmaking achievements, but not amazingly enjoyable.