Holy Motors is high-octane moonshine for film buffs

Comments3

Starring Denis Lavant and Edith Scob. In French with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Friday, November 16, at the Vancity Theatre

Stretch limos played a significant role in two of the films competing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it seems likely that history will remember one more fondly than the other. Cosmopolis did not show director David Cronenberg to best advantage, while Holy Motors represented a return to form for French cinema’s long-idled maverick Leos Carax.

The fact that no one could definitively say what Holy Motors—the director’s first full-length feature since 1999—was about is beside the point. Carax has always been a man of visions, not vision. Basically, he’s more concerned with the individual fragments in his “stained-glass windows” than he is with the overall design. He’s an artist who doesn’t feel the need to play the prophet.

Oscar (the impossibly athletic Denis Lavant) takes the phrase “all the world’s a stage” a little more literally than most. As he tours the boulevards and back alleys of Paris in a white limousine driven by the mysterious Céline (Edith Scob), he constantly makes himself up in order to assume real-life roles, many of which defy logic (at one point, he plays both a murderer and the murderer’s victim; at another, he becomes Monsieur Merde, the red-bearded, flower-eating ogre first introduced in Carax’s contribution to the three-part anthology film Tokyo! ).

Holy Motors spreads cinematic references by the bucketful in its various vignettes. Some of them are intensely personal (the ruined La Samaritaine department store, which constitutes the film’s single most astonishing set, is close to the Pont Neuf, both the site and part of the title of the director’s most celebrated cinematic folly), others more general (the mask that Céline puts on at the end is meant to remind us of Scob’s key role in Georges Franju’s horrific 1960 masterpiece, Eyes Without a Face).

Perhaps not the perfect film for general audiences, this is high-octane moonshine for film buffs, a perfect opportunity to get drunk on an intoxicating waterfall of surrealist imagery.


Watch the trailer for Holy Motors.

Comments (3) Add New Comment
A. MacInnis
Okay, so, er, what "bucketfuls of film references" are we talking about here, exactly? Liked the film, but other than Cosmopolis and Eyes Without a Face (and the past works of Carax, and MAYBE a well-placed nod to the fatal film of Theo van Gogh) I didn't catch references to any other films in this movie. At all, and after having been cued by you to look for'em, too. It all seemed pretty ORIGINAL to me, in fact... Was I simply not playing the game right? Was he referencing films that you have seen that I have not? Or are we talking about very, very small buckets, here?
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Rating: +2
Martin Dunphy
Hey, Al:

How could you have missed the Bad Seed, Lord Love a Duck, and Breakfast at Tiffany's references?

Another generation, I guess....
Sigh.
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Rating: 0
A. MacInnis
Well, that explains it: indeed, I have not *seen* The Bad Seed (yet); it's been 30 or so years since I last saw Lord Love a Duck (if indeed I ever did - I'm not entirely sure); and tho' I finally did get around to Breakfast at Tiffany's last year, I found it impossibly annoying, and turned it off (I'm more of a Roman Holiday/ Sabrina guy when it comes to Audrey Hepburn...).
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Rating: +12
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