Review No. 608
“Holy Motors”, great balls of fire!
NOTE: If you don’t speak French,
I’m sorry here you are.
Director — Leos Carax
Producer — Martine Marignac, Albert Prévost, Maurice Tinchant
Screenplay — Mr. Carax
Denis Lavant — Mr. Oscar
Édith Scob — Céline
Eva Mendes — Kay M.
Kyle Minogue — Eva
Ms. Minogue — Jean
Jeanne Disson — Angèle
Élise Lhomeau — Léa
Ms. Lhomeau — Élise
Michel Piccoli — man with birthmark
Leos Carax — The Sleeper
Distributor — Les Films du Losange (“Diamond Films”)
Release Date — May 23, 2012 (Cannes); July 4, 2012 (France); October 11, 2012 (NYFF); October 17, 2012 (New York premiere)
Language — French, English, Chinese
Country — France, Germany
Running Time — 116 minutes
MPAA — NOT RATED — MATURE CONTENT.
HOLY MOTORS WAS WATCHED ON SEPTEMBER 6, 2013.
Holy Motors is strange and utterly enchanting. The film is the fifth work directed by Leos Carax, who’s also worked as a film critic. Yes, he’s French, but he truly knows American movies just as well; his Holy Motors echoes these classiques. It’s Blade Runner and it’s also Eraserhead. (I believe there’s touches of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well.)
But these two or three examples are nothing more than a starting point. The movie is, at the same time, everything we’ve already seen, and something for the ages because it’s completely new. It frees the imagination entirely. The lack of fear when Mr. Carax explores the fantasy genre is why we’re curious, just as much as the director himself. Of course, Holy Motors raises questions. What’s going on here? and How are these stories going to connect? stand out more than the thousand others. Watching the answers take charge–or, when the director cleverly avoids them–is mesmerizing.
There is a lack of dialogue in this neat little fantasy, but that isn’t much a problem. (Is there perhaps symbolism in the homages to silent films, during the first and last scenes of the movie?) In fact, the dialogue isn’t really necessary: the cinematography speaks it all. It’s absolutely beautiful. The “mirror shot” is important in one scene–but it’s not used to depict an epiphany…I won’t give any spoilers. The cinematography is exquisite and beyond careful; your attention is in the hands of the director with just these little details.
The casting is excellent, with actors who’re more talented than one would expect. (Were they defying gravity at one point? Is it just me?) But simply their performances are good enough; in fact, they’re perfect. Eva Mendes does very well (to say the very least). But this actress is nothing with Denis Lavant around. Mr. Lavant takes on not one, not two, but ten personas! Not just that: he’s a true demonstration of them all.
Holy Motors is great mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t fear its inner child. (No, this isn’t a film for that inner child; there’s violence and more nudity than in most American films.) It’s surreal, but it’s just as dramatic. I’ll note the lack of cohesion here, but it’s possibly the only imperfection to be found. Decades after these auteurs, Mr. Carax has made a near-perfect amalgamation of Luis Buñuel and Federico Fellini. Yes, it’s truly an oddball, but in modern cinema, isn’t that exactly what we want?