Review of HOLY MOTORS

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Do you like weird movies?  Movies so strange that they don’t make literal sense.  Are you a fan of the CREMASTER films?  Well, then have I got a movie for you.  It’s called HOLY MOTORS.  I’m going to tell you what it’s about if I can.  It’s not really about anything I guess, but I’ll at least tell you what happens.  The movie opens with a bunch of people sitting in a classic movie theater watching something.  I guess this was to show that us, the audience, should prepare ourselves because we are about to be taken on a fucked up journey.

The rest of the movie focuses on an actor (at least I think he’s an actor) named Oscar.  He leaves his home in the morning and enters a white limo.  His driver tells him that he has 9 appointments today.  He then dresses up in the car (which sort of acts as his dressing room) as an old woman.  He then gets out of the car and walks around as an old lady for 5 minutes.  He gets back in the car  and is driven to a studio.  He puts on a motion capture outfit, does some fighting moves, runs on a treadmill and then simulates sex with Kylie Minogue, who is also wearing a motion capture suit.  And that’s just his first 2 appointments.

The next one is by far the most bizarre.  Oscar dresses up as a hunchback with a fucked up face and runs around the sewer for a few minutes.  He then walks onto a live photo shoot, bites the fingers off of an intern and kidnaps the model.  After he brings her to his underground layer, he strips naked to reveal a fully erect penis, then he lays down next to the model as she mumbles some weird shit.  So if you’ve ever wanted to see Eva Mendes sit next to an ugly dude with an erection, you’re in luck.

There are other bizarre things Oscar does.  He murders himself, jams with a group of accordion players, meets with a fellow actor for a musical number, and finally goes home to a family of monkeys.  And the entire time he’s going around doing this, his driver keeps referring to these little episodes as appointments.  I guess I don’t really understand that.  So, is he an actor and is doing these freelance jobs?  But who would pay him to bite someone’s fingers off?!?

Obviously, this movie isn’t supposed to be taken literally.  It’s not supposed to make sense.  And that’s fine.  I was actually entertained by some of it.  The scene when he kidnaps the model is pretty funny actually, and ludicrously shocking.  I was also impressed with the accordion jam, which is shot in a mostly unbroken steadicam shot.  The musical number between Oscar and the girl he loves (I think.  Nothing is really what it seems in this movie) is really well done.  I admired the craft that went into a number of these sequences.  In fact, my favorite scene in the movie is the final shot that doesn’t involve any human characters.  It was a bizarrely clever way to end the film.

But it is still pretentious.  Now, if I would have seen this while I was in film school 17 years ago, I would have most likely eaten this up.  It’s so bizarre that I can see how some people (especially film students) would find this fascinating .  I’m kind of past this phase in my life now, so now I just view this kind of movie for what it is:  It’s strange just for the sake of being strange.  It’s not making sense on purpose.  Honestly, I’m bored with this kind of film now.  That’s not to say that it’s poorly made, cause it’s not.

Denis Lavant gives an incredible performance as Oscar.  Not only does he have to do some weirdly off-the-wall things, he also does it often playing different ages and genders.  Lavant completely loses himself in everything he does here and I was impressed.  The direction is also quite good by Leos Carax.  The use of color and the variety of obtuse angles make this always visually interesting to watch.  Unfortunately, the movie ends up imploding on itself due to its over-ambition.

Saying that this movie is not for everybody is a vast understatement.  It’s for very few people.  Those that seek experimental films will want to check this out.  I’m glad I saw it, but like I said, I’ve just grown beyond these types of movies.  Kind of reminded me of Cronenberg’s COSMOPOLIS earlier this year, though this has even less of a plot and makes less sense.  But I still admire the film for thinking out of the box, but it just tries too hard to be weird.  I’d watch certain segments of this movie again, but probably not the whole thing.  This would have worked better as a series of experimental shorts, but it doesn’t really gel as a feature film.  Nice try.  ★★½ (out of ★★★★)

- Not Rated but contains an erect penis, strong violence, and sexual content.  Would most likely be NC-17.

- Running time: 1hr 55min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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4 replies

  1. This is a film that gives as much back as you are willing to put in. You simply don’t want to make the effort to actually absorb cinema on this level. You say it’s because of your age and tiredness with films of this kind. But it’s clear that you know longer want to work for your films, you want to be spoon fed. Probably a big Beasts of the Southern Wild fan, huh?

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