Holy Motors is one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years and one that demands to be seen again. It is a visual feast and a love letter to cinema. It is a surrealist odyssey through Paris and life. It is zany, funny and ultimately touching.
Holy Motors is the first film in more than ten years by French film-maker Leos Carax, who also directed Les amants du Pont Neuf.
Holy Motors follows a day in the life of Monsieur Oscar, played by Denis Levant, as he travels from one life to another from dawn to midnight. His driver, the elegantly dressed Céline, played by Edith Scob, drives him through the streets of Paris in a white stretch limousine to a series of mysterious appointments. After taking on a new disguise in the dressing room at the back of the car Monsieur Oscar steps out into the world as a wealthy businessman, a hit man or a grumpy father picking up his teenage daughter at a party.
In one memorable episode Monsieur Oscar, dressed as a beggar, disrupts a fashion shoot, after which he runs off with the model, played by Eva Mendes, disappearing into the sewers of Paris. In another tragic episode he meets with his lost love, a Jean Seberg lookalike played by Kylie Minogue, who bursts into a song as she walks through an abandoned department store.
Holy Motors is a movie about movies and the (lost?) art of movie making. In one scene Monsieur Oscar meets with his boss (?) in the back of the car, who questions him about his waning motivation to keep going. Oscar mentions something about humans disappearing behind technology and about the beauty of the act. In an earlier episode Oscar literally disappeared as he put on a black unitard dotted with phosphorescent dots and engaged in an erotic motion-capture duet with a contortionist.
Throughout the film there are allusions to other films and books from Jean-Luc Godard to Jean Cocteau and David Lynch, which made me want to watch the film again to check for any intertextual references that I may have missed.