Holy Motors – Film Review

holy_motorsThe whole time I watched this bonkers surrealist fever dream of a film, my feeling was, I’ve no idea what on earth this movie is about, but I want to keep watching just to see what happens next. It’s a one-of-a-kind movie alright.

The story, if you can call it so, involves a man called Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), who is ferried around Paris in the back of a limo by his taciturn but caring driver, Céline. He is employed by a mysterious organisation and has a number of appointments to attend to every day, and for each one, he adopts a different guise. The first appointment sees him transform into an old beggar woman, who loiters around with her begging bowl for a while before scooting off in the limo for the next appointment, which is… as far as I could say, a motion-capture acrobat who ends up romping around the studio in a highly erotic manner with a woman in a red skin-tight suit. And that’s not even the weirdest appointment by far; the honour goes to the one where Monsieur Oscar turns into a horrible red-haired satyr-like madman who runs around the cemetery munching on flowers, kidnaps a model (Eva Mendes) from a photo shoot, then takes her to the sewers and dresses her up as a Muslim woman. Even typing this up is extremely bizarre.

To make the whole thing even more jarring, the WTF episodes are interspersed with appointments that have clear conventional narratives and could have come from your average drama – a dad picks up his teenage daughter from a party, a young woman farewells her dying uncle. These feel so real it’s a jolt when they’re over and it’s time for Monsieur Oscar to take his wig and make-up off and move on. In another scene, Monsieur Oscar runs into an old flame (Kylie Minogue, lovely and elfin) who is also a colleague with her own limo and schedule to follow. They walk around an old abandoned department store and she sings a melancholic song about lost love. The film is quite mad, anarchic and preposterous, but tremendously entertaining and funny in places (while totally not funny in others) and the movie never lets you relax by throwing more and more unexpected weirdness onscreen until the very end. As an experience, it’s both engrossing and alienating, like looking in a distorted mirror.

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