Holy Motors (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/09/2012

Five out of Five stars

Running time: 115 mins

By turns beautiful, bewildering and barking mad, this is an astonishing and audacious film that is quite simply unlike anything else you'll see all year, thanks to stylish direction, a wilfully strange script and a glorious central performance from Denis Lavant.

What's it all about?
Directed by Leos Carax, Holy Motors stars regular Carax collaborator Denis Lavant as Monsieur Oscar, whose job involves being driven around Paris in a white stretch limousine by his assistant Celine (Edith Scob), who begins the day by informing him that he has nine different appointments. Each of these appointments requires Monsieur Oscar to dress up (with the interior of the limo doubling as his dressing room) and play a variety of different roles, ranging from the seemingly ordinary (giving a parental lecture to a teenage girl; acting as a corporate businessman) to the disturbing (killing his own double), to the sublime (indulging in a musical interlude), to the downright weird, for example, donning a motion-capture suit for a videogame sex scene or dressing as a sewer-dwelling ginger Leprechaun-type creature called Monsieur Merde (actually a reprise of Lavant's character from Carax's section of portmanteau movie Tokyo!) and kidnapping a curiously unconcerned supermodel (Eva Mendes).

The Good
As is probably already obvious, there's no real plot to speak of, so the audience is free to place their own interpretation on whatever unfolds on screen; as such, you will either love the film or hate it, but it is undoubtedly unlike anything else you'll see all year. The script deliberately avoids making easy connections, but it's fair to say that Carax is exploring ideas of performance within everyday life and within all forms of human interaction.

Lavant is terrific as Monsieur Oscar, disappearing into each role like a true professional, but literally peeling away the layers of each performance to reveal a possibly exhausted man underneath each time; to this end there's a wonderful punchline when Oscar goes home to his own domestic arrangement, unless this, too, is also a part he's playing. There's also terrific support from Edith Scob (who also gets a famous role reprise, by briefly donning the mask she wore in Franju's The Eyes Without A Face), Eva Mendes (you will never look at her quite the same way again) and, fabulously, Kylie Minogue as a suicidal songstress with a Jean Seberg hairdo.

The Great
The wildly different nature of Monsieur Oscar's various encounters means that the film explores a mixture of shifting emotions; one minute it's stylish, erotic and beautiful (the videogame scene), the next achingly sad (Kylie), the next joyous and exuberant (musical interlude), the next darkly funny, the next surreal and disturbing. It also puts a whole new spin on Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, with which it would play perfectly on a double bill.

Worth seeing?
Love it or hate it, Holy Motors is a dazzlingly inventive and deeply strange film that demands to be seen. Unmissable and one of the best films of the year.

Film Trailer

Holy Motors (18)
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 12:52

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