MRR Movie Review: Holy Motors


Movie Review: "Holy Motors"

-- Rating: NR
Length: 115 minutes
Release date: July 4, 2012
Directed by: Leos Carax
Genre: Drama / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

The movies that entertain us most are usually the ones that don't follow a standard template. They may be composed of smaller tales or interconnected with other films. "Holy Motors" is nothing close to the typical film structure, yet it is entertaining nonetheless. Director and writer Leos Carax creates a tale that keeps audiences interested, even when they don't truly understand what is happening in the film at certain moments. "Holy Motors" isn't like any other movie released in 2012 and truly deserves the critical acclaim it has garnered.

Carax begins the film arising from a supposed sleep that is actually a part of a dream sequence. He looks out on the theater audience in an act that mimics the showings of his film upon release. Then a big dog walks down the aisle, giving audiences proof that nothing in "Holy Motors" will be what it seems.

The film revolves around the work of an actor named Oscar (Denis Lavant), whose job involves traveling the streets of the city, donning one costume after another, and assuming the identity of a different person each time. His driver Celine (Edith Scob) doles out the assignments for the day and transports Oscar between destinations. Prior to each assignment, the man dresses in an elaborate dressing room in the back of the limousine as the city sights pass by outside.

Each time that Oscar steps outside of the limo, he is a new person. He walks into lives that seem to stand waiting for his presence and gets into predicaments that will definitely shock the audiences at times. The identities are not interconnected, and there is no lesson to be learned from Oscar's work either. There really seems to be no rules or standards to follow each time. Oscar just slips into the identity, completes a task, and leaves for the next scheduled appointment. In one stop, he is a father who steps from the limo to an awaiting car. He picks up a daughter and proceeds to verbally abuse her while driving. At one point during the tirade, Oscar stops the car and drops the girl off on the street. He then meets up with Celine and the limo to be whisked to the next appointment. At another job, he is a hit man who engages in a shootout outside a restaurant. He shoots a man and is shot by the man's body guards. It's all a part of the day's appointments. He moves along. In another appointment, he crashes a photo shoot, kidnaps a model (Eva Mendes), and takes her away to other parts of the city. There is no rhyme or reason to each job. Each appointment is just a task to be done, an identity to assume, and another appointment to get to.

Carax produces a cerebral film that seems like a dreamlike state but plays out as if it could actually be a real job. Neither Oscar nor Celine ever gives a reason for the work done or identities assumed. In fact, neither person questions the work at all; he dresses for the jobs, and just she drives. What Carax does provide audiences is a series of sometimes haunting vignette-like scenes that will keep the guesses coming as to what Oscar will do next.

Some say the film is about voyeurism, and others believe it is Carax's commentary on the film industry. A more plausible interpretation of the film's plot is that Oscar's work tells the audiences a lot about human identity, a seemingly sacred, important part of the human experience that Oscar slips on and off like clothing. It is as if Carax asks viewers: Is identity as concrete as it has been assumed to be? One could go farther and look at the concept of acting and identity. Oscar acts out the given roles all day long, but Carax never sheds light on the identity that Oscar holds outside of work. Has the man been acting so long that he has no identity, or do the individual identities of actors not matter as long as they play the roles?

The beauty of "Holy Motors" is in the questions presented and the unexpected scenes that are random but fun to follow. There is also a haunting musical number by Kylie Minogue that deserves mention. The pieces of the film together make a great intellectual movie that will keep audiences thinking, wondering, and asking their own questions well after the last credits roll. Above anything else, audiences should enter "Holy Motors" expecting to see something that they have never witnessed before. Carax's work will not disappoint.

Rating: 3 out of 5