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Tuesday, 01 January 2013 08:00

'Holy Motors' takes viewers on a wild and weird ride

'Holy Motors' takes viewers on a wild and weird ride
Written by Martha K. Baker
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About this Media...

  • Director: Leos Carax
  • Dates: Through December 2012

You're never seen another movie like "Holy Motors," and you're never going to again. The very concept is intriguing.

The main setting is moving: It's a long, white limo. Inside are all the costumes and make-up that the actor named Monsieur Oscar needs for his job. Rather jobs. He has nine tonight, appointments organized by Celine, his secretary and chauffeuse through the night. From the moment that Monsieur Oscar begins to read his lines in his playbook, you are no longer sure what is true and what is acted. What is a base line and what is a tangent. What is real and what is unreal or surreal. Let's just say, "all of the above."

The car, equipped with a fireplace, plays a role itself as it rolls through the Parisian night with the usual tourist tidbits alight and in view. Under Celine's steering, acting roles await Monsieur Oscar. He is a banker-killer, an uncle (maybe that's real?), a Pied Piper on the accordion, a captain of industry, a beggar woman bent at the waist, an actor covered in the cotton-ball appearance of motion-capture filming, a father, etc. He is involved in violence, in high fashion (see Eva Mendes) and top recording -- that's where Kylie Minogue comes in. And after each act, he slips back into the car, picks up the play bill and begins to assume his next role, with the serene Celine seen on his TV screen.

Edith Scob plays the chauffeuse without losing a hair in her French twist. She does get angry once at another limo driver and calls him, "Ectoplasm on wheels." One wonders if another actor lies in the back of that limo. Denis Lavant plays Monsieur Oscar with Gallic tenacity and pride in a job well done. But the glory goes to Leos Carax, the writer and director. That nom de plume is an anagram of his birth name, which includes the name Oscar and, in French, is a sly reference to the Academy's statuette.

The same sense of humor tickles the plot of "Holy Motors." Look, for example, at the tombstones in one of Paris' cemeteries: they are inscribed, "Visit my website." That cemetery scene is one of the best in the film, but there are also scenes in sewers, allusions to "Les Miserables," only this miserable one is a model. And watch the erotic, liquid dance that Monsieur Oscar has with another actor in a red catsuit.

"Holy Motors" (the last scene explains the title) is weird. You know that when the funniest line is, "Taxi, follow that pigeon," you're careening with the avant garde on two wheels. Frames from the famous work of Muybridge are included in homage to film about film. And you simply will not believe the end, but it makes sense. "Holy Motors" is a melange, an homage, a celebration, a picnic and an ego trip.

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