Holy Motors REVIEW

Holy Motors DVD review: Driving Mr Crazy.

Holy Motors.

Well, that’s one way to store your ping-pong balls.

Release Date: 28 January 2013
2012 | 18 | 115 minutes | £15.99 (DVD)/£19.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Director: Leos Carax
Cast: Denis Lavant, Édith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue

If ever NASA launch another deep space probe, sending a beacon of humanity hurtling beyond the solar system towards a possible encounter with extra-terrestrial civilisations, they should place a copy of this French film inside. Any alien races that find it will be treated to an encapsulation of everything the medium has to offer.

It follows a day in the life of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), whose mysterious job involves being driven around Paris in a white stretch limousine. Donning often elaborate costumes and makeup, each stop sees him taking part in scenarios that span cinematic genres: a lachrymose melodrama, a violent gangster film, a musical with Kylie, and so on. But where are the cameras?

On a more philosophical level, you could interpret it as a treatise on the social construction of reality, a metaphor for how we’re all merely “playing roles”. Sounds pretentious, right? And the dreaded P word has been bandied about by closed-minded fools blinkered by their reliance on convention. But more than that, Holy Motors is about the possibilities of cinema.

Theorising about the film doesn’t really help to convey what a joyful experience it is to watch. This isn’t some dry intellectual exercise, and no high-minded thesis can hope to capture two important things about it.

Firstly, it possesses moments of stunning spectacle. One sequence transforms the dreary business of motion capture into visual poetry, with the suited-up Oscar first performing a succession of martial arts moves, then pairing up with a pneumatic blonde in skintight red PVC to writhe in sexual abandon as their bodies are translated into CGI monsters. In this one sequence, director Leos Carax masterfully demonstrates two of cinema’s most powerful weapons: action and eroticism.

Secondly, it’s mischievously funny. There’s a rich vein of humour here, with wry smiles inspired by surreal sights and the sort of inversion of norms you also find in the films of Luis Bunuel.

Should you wish, you can approach it as a dissertation on the nature of identity. But as is underlined by one breathtaking musical interlude, in which Oscar leads a crowd of accordion players in a thrilling march around a cathedral, just as much as anything else this baffling, beguiling and beautiful film is “about” sheer entertainment.


An interview with the director, and deleted scenes.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

For an alternative perspective, read our Holy Motors review from the theatrical release.
See where Holy Motors came in our Top 25 SF And Fantasy Films Of 2012.
Read more of our DVD reviews.