“I have a project: becoming crazy.” Holy Motors leaves you groggy, as if you were awaking from sleepwalking. This magnificent work needs to be digested slowly; we not only get enveloped by this melancholic trip but also amused by the filmmaker’s carefree attitude. This film takes us from one emotion to another – confusing, irritating, annoying, sad, funny, beautiful, ugly, well-crafted and shaky -, each of these emotions reflecting the storyline but also our feelings about the director and his work.
Holy Motors celebrates the beauty of a body, of his movements and of his acting. The body I am referring to belongs to Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant who plays an actor and carries the entire film on his solid shoulders), his gestures looking admittedly odd at times, when the actor works without a camera.
When the movie starts, we see the director himself, Leos Carax (The Lovers on the Bridge, Pola X), as he wakes up in a hotel room, which door is connected to a theater’s projection room – somewhat a reference that this film is a result of one of Mr. Carax’s dreams. Following this prologue, we then follow Mr. Oscar for an entire night.
Driven in a limousine from one role to another, he fulfills his performances with melancholy, violence, drama, lyricism or absurdity as required by the genres of these 9 films. Through these various chapters, the director revisits some universal movie genres and, probably, his own body of work.
From a trader to a beggar and a hitman, Mr. Lavant embodies all types of characters, stretching his acting widely. His make-up, which occurs inside the limousine and mostly consists of putting on a body suit covered with captors, turns him into a motion-capture robot and makes him disappear into his roles. The result is a disembodied figure, which can still be sensual as a striking sex scene with a contortionist can attest. And when identities are exchanged during a murder in a warehouse, the actor seems to lose himself into his roles. While there is no camera, Mr. Oscar continues his work … because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
For one of his roles, Mr. Oscar portrays an ordinary dad who comes to pick up his daughter after a bad surprise party. He tells her: “Your punishment is to be yourself and live with it “, which is exactly the message that Mr. Carax conveys to spectators which will keep his mysteries with them. More importantly, he leaves us with images that blend and collide in a fiery medley. A masterwork, Holy Motors is one of these rare films that carry the hope that cinema can still deliver beauty and intelligence.
Director: Leos Carax – Actors: Denis Lavant, Eva Mendes – Running time: 2:05 – Year: 2012 – Country: France