The more I think about Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, the more I appreciate it. The more I analyze Holy Motors, the more I am frustratingly confounded by it. It’s a film of such unique sensibilities, that, in passing, I could hail as a potential masterpiece. But under the harsh scrutiny of my movie-freaked mind, I’m still not sure if it fully holds up. Actually, forget fully… try remotely.
Eventually (but not clearly – never clearly) we learn that Oscar spends his time in the limo preparing for his next “appointment,” as he calls them. In the limo is just about anything a professional movie make-up artist would need: costumes, props, wigs, weapons, fake blood – anything. Every time Oscar goes to an appointment, he is someone (or something) new. He goes back to the car, changes, and remerges as someone different.
That’s Holy Motors.
Now, I imagine the first question for you readers is Why. Why the hell is Oscar doing what he’s doing? That’s something I wondered as well, and something I can in no way intelligibly answer. Another question may be What. What the hell is the point of at all? Another one that’s lost on me.
So here’s the thing. Regarding this film, it’s clear that Leos Carax knows something we don’t. Or, at the very least, has not the slightest bit interested informing us what we do not understand. Let me be frank: people may like this film, others will hate it, but no one will ever be able to break it down with unwavered accuracy. That simply isn’t possible. And therein lies the film’s beauty.
Throughout this movie, I was reminded of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, which is still and will remain the very worst film I have seen this year. Both films star male figures of anonymous authority who spend the majority of one day traveling a large city in the back of a limo. Oh, and both films make little to no sense. What sets them apart is the fact that Holy Motors, despite its perplexities, is simply thrilling to watch. Its episodic nature allows it to never once grow boring, while the believability of the actors involved help convince the audience that what they are seeing is worthy.
As Oscar (or whatever the hell you want to call him), Denis Lavant gives as fearless and committed a performance as you’re likely to find this year. Same goes for Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, two well known women who show up briefly and randomly but manage to stick around far after they’ve left the screen.
I’d be curious to know if Lavant, or anyone else from the cast and/or crew, ever questioned Carax (and his script) during filming. And, perhaps more tellingly, I’d kill to know how Carax responded. To have a film like Holy Motors explained would be to take the piss out of the whole thing. It might make it more… enjoyable, if that’s the proper word, but I seriously doubt enjoyment is high on Carax’s emotions to hit.
All too often, I hear naysayers (or pseudo intellectuals, as Woody Allen prefers to call them) degrade film as a dead artistic medium. There are no new original ideas left, they may say. And while focusing on Hollywood fare more than proves that statement true, take Holy Motors as a case in point for those seeking cinematic originality. For better or worse, no one has ever seen anything like it.
I could (and am tempted to) give this film an A. But, quite frankly, I could just as easily give it an F. Ask me one day, and I’ll tell you it is a moving work of art that deserves comparison to the best works of Kubrick and Malick. Ask me the following day, and I may say it is a complete waste of time that adds nothing to anything, except your level of frustration. For now (and this may change), I’m going with the former. But believe you me, you’ve been warned. A-