Film Review: “Holy Motors”

****OUT OF 4

The wild and wacky French auteur, Leos Carax (“Lovers On the Bridge”) is back after taking a 13 year hiatus since his last feature- the cult Cannes entry “Pola X”. His latest film, Holy Motors, also debuted at Cannes, and is astonishing and utterly the work of a tortured mind. Carax, whose professional name is an anagram of his first (“Alex”) and middle name (“Oscar) made three features in his 20’s and only two since. At 51, he is making films unlike anyone else.

Holy Motors tells the tale of Monsieur Oscar who performs as eleven different performance artists during the course of a 24 hour time period as he is driven to his mysterious appointments around Paris by his chauffeur, a woman named Celine. Oscar is portrayed by long-time Carax collaborator, the wonderful, Denis Lavant. The driver is played by the intriguing Edith Scob.

Oscar gets into costume in the limo and among the bizarre and unsettling roles there are some mundane ones as well. For example, he gives advice as the parent of a teenage girl; and acts as an executive in a corporate business. But then he becomes a professional assassin and his doppelganger victim and shocks you with a searing verisimilitude that borders on surrealism. Among his roles we witness a hunched bag lady, a sewer dwelling leprechaun, an old man on his deathbed and a kidnapper of an apathetic supermodel (Eva Mendes).  We stare in amusement as Oscar dons a motion- capture suit for a video-game sex scene.

The film follows an episodic structure and you will most likely find the material compelling and engaging or you will be bored. It explores a mixture of emotions from erotic and sad to joyous and exuberant with a touch of black humor. Carax’s visual style is aided by DP Caroline Champetier, who won the Cesar for cinematography last year for “Of Gods and Men”. Much of the material soars with flights of fancy.

This is a brilliant film which is inventive and idiosyncratic. It will make you see the world in a different light.

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