Holy Motors REVIEW

Holy Motors.

"Hmm, maybe it said wash off after three minutes, not three hours?"

Release Date: 28 September 2012
18 | 115 minutes
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Director: Leos Carax
Cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue

We’re willing to wager that, should you find yourself settling in for an evening in the company of Holy Motors, you’ll end the night confused, and a little unsure as to whether you’ve just dreamed the whole thing.

For Holy Motors is a strange beast indeed. When boiled down to its component parts, it sounds pretty simple: Denis Lavant plays a mysterious actor who’s ferried around Paris in the back of a limousine to various appointments, at which he dons an outrageous costume and leaps out into the real world to perform an “act”. These acts range from begging as an old lady to assassinating a moustachioed villain, in an ever more surreal procession of lunacy.

We’re never sure who the actor is employed by, or to what end. Who are the audience? Where are the cameras? What is his motivation for clowning around in these bizarre get-ups? Holy Motors never pauses to answer these questions, but the obfuscation of definitive intent simultaneously seduces and stimulates you into drawing your own conclusions. If it sounds barmier than a barrel full of beavers, rest assured, it is.

Jettisoning standard narrative devices, director Leos Carax beguiles and bewilders in equal measure, propelling you through a gauntlet of emotion ranging from fear to relief, via heartbreak and wild whimsy. Just when you think the film’s going to be swallowed by its own pretensions, it shifts shape into something else altogether, the sublime followed by the ridiculous again and again.

Much of the film’s impact is derived from Denis Lavant’s astonishing performance. He entirely inhabits each character, whether playing a concerned father or an elderly man approaching death. He’s at his most delightfully unhinged when channelling the disgustingly manic Monsieur Merde, a hair-munching, supermodel-abducting nutjob who is, frankly, terrifying. Lavant uses every tool available to him, from his impressive physicality to his chameleonic face, in a bravura performance that is unlike anything you’re likely to see this (or any other) year.

Cameos from Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes, a massed-accordion interlude and an unsettling prologue all play their part in stretching the boundaries way beyond the familiar. Full of striking moments that stick in the subconscious, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more affecting cinematic experience than this.

Rob Power twitter.com/mrrobpower

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