Leos Carax’s Holy Motors will most certainly stand as the most original film of the year, and possibly the oddest, but it is also an incredibly riveting celebration of cinema and features an amazing performance by Dennis Lavant.
The film follows Monsieur Oscar, a seemingly wealthy man with a happy family who gets in a limousine and begins heading to a series of appointments. These aren’t your normal business meetings though, M. Oscar is a performance artist of sorts and we watch as he takes on a varying number of roles which he has been assigned and the viewer is left to try and piece together what the hell this is all for.
The mystery of M. Oscar’s job is only one reason the film compels, it is also entirely unpredictable. Each new appointment is like a different film genre exercise and it’s got a little bit of everything. Humor, family drama, special effects extravaganza, monster movie, musical, accordion rock video, it’s got it all. It is also beautifully composed and one of the most gorgeous entries of the year. The technical specs beyond the cinematography are excellent as well with a very effective soundtrack (Godzilla theme!) and an imaginative script that leaves you in wonder while sometimes scratching your head. The film never lets you in on what is real and what is part of the guiding hands’ “performance” but the film’s later half opens some interesting questions into the mystery of M. Oscar’s past life. The film is fun in this regard and is ripe for conversation trying to figure out what the hell was going on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it frustrates some viewers. Don’t anticipate “getting it” the first time out, not that this is the point of a film like this, but just enjoy the experience and “embrace the mystery” and you will find the film holds many rewards.
M. Oscar is in every scene of the film and he is played incredibly by Denis Lavant. He is chameleon like, jumping from scene to scene in a new and diverse role every time, Lavant is putting on an acting clinic here. He shows such a wide range and incredible depth in the roles, yet he gives you a consistent through line to follow that tells us more about M. Oscar. We learn more and more about M. Oscar as we get deeper and deeper into the film and the duality Lavant is constantly putting on is what makes this one of the very best performances of the year. His supporting cast is excellent as well with a wide range of faces popping in and out of the film. Kylie Minogue is very effective in a critical look into M. Oscar’s past, Edith Scob helps keep the mystery alive as M. Oscar’s driver, Eva Mendes delivers a creepy and mesmerizing turn as a sort of beautiful prop, Jeanne Disson is heartbreaking in one of the film’s oddest segments and Elise Lhomeau is sexy and devastating as one of M. Oscar’s “co-stars”.
Holy Motors is a mesmerizing and beautiful film from director Leos Carax. Original and unpredictable, the film is a love letter to cinema and everything that it can do. Denis Lavant gives a performance that is not to be missed in a film that will have you talking and wanting to go back for more. Holy Motors is one of the year’s best films.
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