It’s not especially easy to make sense of ‘Holy Motors’, a dreamscape of a movie that thumbs its nose at traditional structure and storytelling while still captivating you at all turns, but I’ll certainly try. Leos Carax’s film is all at once a love letter to acting, movies, the city of Paris, and even the work of Charlie Chaplin. There’s a ton going on here, and it does threaten to overwhelm you, but between the sheer audacity on the screen and the terrific lead performance of Denis Lavant, it’s hard not to fall under the film’s spell. There are certain parts I’m still trying to figure out in my head, but this is a flick that exists beyond the realm of just following a plot from beginning to end. In many ways, the point of the exercise is that a viewer can readily attach just about any theory to it and not be wrong. I won’t get too deeply into those here since they require a spoiler-filled reading of the movie, but if nothing else I want to encourage everyone to try and see this film. It opens next week in limited release and I’m rather confident in saying that there’s nothing else in theaters quite like it, and that’s perhaps the understatement of the year.
It’s hard to give a plot description of something like this, but here goes nothing anyhow. After an opening that features a clip of an early silent film and a look at an audience in a movie theater, we see a man wake up and dreamily wander from his bed through a mysterious door in his wall to the same theater, showing how the plot will presumably blur the lines between movie and dream. The story then transitions to Oscar, a man who sets out for the day beginning as a wealthy captain of industry inside of a huge white limousine. That’s just one of 9 “appointments” that he has though, as before long he’ll become a beggar woman, a motion capture artist, a disappointed father to a teenage girl, a hit man, a weird troll like creature, and other such roles that suggest any number of things. What you ultimately take out of the plot is up to you, but I’ve got a number of different theories and all allow me to appreciate the film in different yet equal ways. This is an experience to be watched, not merely told about, especially when it comes to the plot.
One can’t say enough about the performance of Denis Lavant. He’s essentially playing 11 roles here, and he captivates with each one. My two personal favorites are his motion capture sequence, which was fascinating on multiple levels, as well as his troll like monster, who is about as different a form of acting as anything else in the film. Lavant wowed me at every turn. He’ll never get an Oscar nomination in a crowded year like this, but Best Supporting Actor would be a better field with him in it. He’s the absolute focus of the film, but the supporting cast includes great individual scenes with Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, as well as Edith Scob in a nicely understated turn as Oscar’s driver. Mendes has a nearly silent role, but she manages to impress, while Minogue has a touching scene that results in her singing an original song for the film that I loved called “Who Were We?” that deserves award consideration as well. It’s an actor’s dream this movie, and the cast really begins and ends with Lavant for me.
This is a wonderful piece of fearless filmmaking by Leos Carax. His writing and direction are both incredibly specific and also at the same time still free flowing and surprising. The script sets things up for Carax to direct and his actors to perform, and they don’t disappoint one bit. Carax’s direction has some amazingly striking imagery, both beautiful and horrific in equal measure. It’s audacious and outstanding work on all levels. The ending especially will lead to plenty of discussions, but that really does go for all levels of the film. It’s truly great stuff and I was really blown away by his work. No other filmmaker is doing exactly what Carax is doing here, especially not David Cronenberg in the presumed to be similar (yet very different) flick ‘Cosmopolis’, that’s for sure.
Overall, ‘Holy Motors’ is a truly unique moviegoing experience. It’s a powerful film that could literally either be making a comment about life and death, the struggles of acting, the issues of modern filmmaking, or any number of other things. Powered by Denis Lavant’s incredible performance and Leos Carax’s filmmaking, I fell completely under this movie’s spell. I know that some people have hated this flick, but as much as they dislike it is how much I really enjoyed it. You won’t see a more unique film this year, I can all but guarantee it! ‘Holy Motors’ is opening in theaters soon and I urge you to open your mind and give it a try. It isn’t going to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar, and in fact isn’t even being submitted for consideration, but for my money it’s the best Foreign film of 2012…
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!
Tags: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Holy Motors, Kylie Minogue, Leos Carax, Oscar hopeful