Monday, November 26, 2012

A Reel Review: HOLY MOTORS

Elusive French film director Leos Carax’s HOLY MOTORS has been making serious waves in 2012, having received sweeping acclaim at the Cannes film festival, and the right to a claim as the best-reviewed film of the year. It breaks the mold of the standard three-act film and has a style never seen before. It is a deeply, personal film for Carax; one that might not be accessible to many.
Oscar (Denis Lavant) travels by limousine around Paris to a series of nine appointments, transforming into new characters at each stop. With each character comes a new storyline, a new supporting cast, and a new style of film.

HOLY MOTORS hooks you early on with the fascination of seeing Oscar transform into a new character every fifteen minutes. He goes from a business executive to a motion-capture artist to an assassin (among others) without much explanation as to why he is in this situation. Eventually, little hints are dropped towards something bigger at work, and that adds to the ongoing intrigue. Also, each new storyline is presented in a different film genre; everything from noir, monster films, musicals and melodrama.
If that weren’t enough, the segments in HOLY MOTORS are completely off-the-wall bizarre; ranging from naked leprechauns to domesticated chimps to dragon-sex. Not to mention transitions utilizing vintage black-and-white vaudeville clips and an intermission filled with an accordion band (led by Oscar himself). With so much going on, the promise of an explanation is enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen.

Unfortunately, HOLY MOTORS tries to get smarter than it actually is. The explanation behind all of the wackiness is never given. The finale offers nothing but even more head-scratching; a completely ambiguous ending to an ambiguous film and you cannot help but to walk out of the theatre in utter silence and/or disbelief. Carax doesn’t offer any sort of point to the film, and it just feels odd for the sake of being odd.
The best thing about HOLY MOTORS is the performance from Denis Lavant, who transforms in front of our very eyes playing ten different characters. He isn’t just an actor playing multiple roles, he is a character playing multiple roles; there is a depth Lavant reaches which propels him to one of the best performances in 2012. The supporting cast in the form of Kylie Minogue, Edith Scob, and a sexed-up Eva Mendes are also very good.

There is usually nothing wrong with a film which challenges the audience to draw their own conclusions or take away their own meaning, but that only works if you give them something to latch onto. HOLY MOTORS does no such thing. Somewhere, buried underneath all the rubble of disconnected movie, there is likely meaning which only Carax and Carax alone can understand. That means HOLY MOTORS is an inside joke which never should have been let out of the clown car.


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