Holy Motors Review

Holy Motors?

Holy mindfuck is more like it.

Starring Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue and the chameleonic talents of Denis Lavant, Holy Motors is the story of, well, I’m still not sure what it’s about.

Admittedly, missing the first few minutes thanks to some slack jawed London rubber-neckers loitering around Piccadilly Circus didn’t help much.

Show most of these guys a hot, yellow thing that dances in the air and keeps you warm and they’d probably suffer a brain embolism.

Which is funny, because that’s how Leos Carax’s film may leave you feeling afterwards.

We begin with a fifty something family man leaving his palatial house for work in the morning.

Evidently, this fellow is a banker and not the most popular of people nowadays.

As he waves goodbye to his family and young children, he passes by a couple of bodyguards on his way to a white, stretch limousine.

Once inside, his faithful driver Céline tells this mysterious man about his first appointment and he swings out one of those mirrors performers use backstage when they’re getting ready for a show.

As the man looks into the mirror, with a dozen or so light bulbs illuminating his face, he starts making himself look like an old beggar woman.

Having spoken on the phone earlier about picking up a gun to defend himself, you think this is just another part of his elaborate protection measures.

But that would be far too linear for Carax.

Dropped off in a bustling area of Paris, the man proceeds to take his old beggar woman ruse one step further and actually begs for money.

Which comes as no surprise to me, as that’s how much the rich love money.

With his first appointment out of the way, Céline picks up the man and he starts getting himself ready for his next appointment as a blue screen martial arts expert.

As he dances around a blank canvas in his sensor fitted cat-suit, a women in a similar red, skin tight outfit walks in and turns this into a voyeuristic cyber-sex show.

Next up the man becomes a weird, ugly troll dwarf who kidnaps some model and takes her to the sewer.

And then a father picking up his teenage daughter from her first party without parents.

Then a hired assassin with a killer moustache and evil switchblade.

Then back to the banker.

Are you keeping up with all this?

Oh, did I mention that this man can’t be killed either?

Handy little party trick that one.

And that’s about the first half hour of Holy Motors.

I could go on with the non-linear nonsense that Carax bombards the viewer with, but seeing as they haven’t tried to make sense of this film I’m not sure my review should either.

Following a musical interval, we get some altogether more normal vignettes about the appointments our mystery man has to keep.

Until we’re introduced to his simian wife and offspring.

And limousines start talking to each other.

Having slept on Holy Motors before writing this, I’m still not sure what to make of it.

You could watch this film ten times over and still not know what the hell it’s about, and I guess that’s the point.

Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I don’t know; it’s up to the individual viewer to decide that.

What’s not in doubt is the insanely brilliant performance from French actor Lavant, who’s literally in every scene – sometimes more than once – as he plays a dozen or so different characters.

Just when you’re ready to give up on the self-indulgent pretentiousness of Holy Motors’ first act, familiar faces pop out at you to keep you hooked that little bit longer; and the longer you watch, the more it draws you into its strange yet beguiling world.

I still can’t decide whether writer and director Leos Carax is a certified genius or an authentic wacko, but Holy Motors is one of those films to see just so you can say that you have.

Don’t expect to be able to make head nor tail of this impossibly French nod to surrealism though.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2012