‘Holy Motors’ Movie Review – Um…Okay…
What can I say about the new film Holy Motors? To call it weird would be an understatement of epic proportions. Written and directed by Leos Carax, this classic example of French art-house surrealism is destined to go down as one of those movies pretentious film students look down on their friends for not having seen. In fact, I think if I had seen this movie in 1998 at the height of my own hipsterness, I would have been one of those people insisting that the whole film is a misunderstood metaphor for the facets of mankind.
In 2012, I just think it was the craziest piece of WTF-ery ever to come out of France.
The movie sort of tells the story of Oscar whose job is to go around Paris all day, making random stops where, through the use of makeup and costumes, he steps into various scenarios and roles and becomes a different person for awhile. These stops range from the mundane (playing the father of a shy preteen girl) to the insane (pretending to be a crazed hunchback who kidnaps Eva Mendes from a photoshoot and takes her down into the sewers in order to get naked and lie down next to her sporting an erection.) Yes, there is full frontal, aroused male nudity purely for the sake of shock value. There is also a random musical number by Kylie Minogue and excessive smoking, the final two pieces of the French film triad.
Are these roles Oscar plays continually, back and forth, over and over, throughout his career? Or are they just one-shot events that he slips in and out of at scheduled moments? We find out he’s not the only one; there are a fleet of people like Oscar being driven around in limos (the titular Holy Motors), and they do have contact with each other. But what is the purpose of their job? That is a question that will be foremost on an audience member’s mind and it is the one question that the film maker had absolutely no interest in answering. This stuff just happens. That seems to be the only answer. Don’t question it, don’t think about it, just go with it.
Even as I understand that in my head, I still wish this movie made sense. Maybe it’s not supposed to and there is something to be said for a true non-sequitor, but I feel that if so much time and money and effort is going to be put into a film, I want to walk out of the theatre having felt something other than creeped out.
In the end, I think Holy Motors was supposed to showcase all of the classic tropes of French cinema, but if I’m right, and if the whole film was meant to poke fun at the very industry that produced it, then the joke is on them. In trying to create a satire, they ended up falling into the very cliches they were trying to lampoon.
Holy Motors opens in limited release on Friday, November 16th.