French cinema has a tendency to be a little strange from time to time. The classy European country releases films that are visually striking, thought-provoking and downright good. Holy Motors is one such film and the results from writer/director Leos Carax’s (Boy Meets Girl, The Lovers on the Bridge) bizarre work of art are very captivating. One must go into the film with an open mind because the story is rather surreal and the characters, truly unique. It is a French film that doesn’t really address any important issues. It is like true art. It simply exists to be marveled at.
The story of Holy Motors revolves around a man by the name of Monsieur Oscar played to perfection by Denis Lavant (Boy Meets Girl, The Lovers on the Bridge). He is a family man whose profession is one of pure weirdness. He rides around in a limo, driven by his assistant Celine (Edith Scob) and carries out random, bizarre assignments. These assignments involve make-up, costumes and in some cases, violence. Each assignment gets weirder and weirder as the film progresses and the point of it all is extremely vague.
Holy Motors is an exercise is film freedom. Filmmaker Carax doesn’t give a crap about offending, perplexing or even alienating his audience. He has made a film here that is confusing, odd and utterly pointless. Having said that, it is actually rather beautiful. There is a fantasy element and that is where Carax has unleashed his highly imaginative style. Eva Mendes is randomly cast in the film as a model kidnapped by a monstrous Lavant. Her presence in this film is even further proof at just how random a filmmaker Carax can be.
Denis Lavant gives a performance for the ages here. In the film, Oscar’s job requires him to jump from character to character with information contained in a folder and a limo packed with fake noses, crazy getups and peculiar accessories. Each character Lavant plays is filled with depth and sparks strong curiosity from the audience. His driver and assistant Celine chauffeurs and briefs him on each mission, stone-faced and extremely efficient. Their relationship isn’t explored too deeply and that is fine because it strictly professional.
Paris is a strong character in this film as well, almost as strong as Oscar and Celine. These two characters drive all around Paris from morning until night, making random stops and carrying out bizarre missions. The Parisian background serves as a character because it helps move the story along with its beautiful scenery, shadowy alleys and crowded city streets. Oscar carries out his missions all over the gorgeous town and Carax has truly captured Paris’ good side even though the characters at times, show their bad sides.
The more one thinks about Holy Motors, the more one might get confused. It is a surreal film with lots of randomness. Don’t see this movie expecting a straightforward plot and things to make sense. It contains scenes of pure oddness but as strange as these scenes may be, they are actually quite lovely. Oscar’s adventures throughout Paris are zany, dark and sometimes erotic. He is a man who changes identities almost as often as the street lights change color.
The film’s title is a thing of mystery until the very end. Then again, most of the film is a mystery.Holy Motors takes its viewers on a trip both visually and mentally. Oscar takes the audience on a trip through Paris which is both sexy and disturbing. Carax is definitely a cinematic artist and this film reinforces that fact. See this film with an open mind because it’s certainly not your average popcorn film. It is a cerebral journey which opens audiences to new things. These things can be scary but they can also be beautiful. Oscar will take you to both places while riding in a limo to get from place to place. Go with Oscar on his journey but be cautious as to where you are going.