I decided to go watch “Holy Motors” without having read anything about it before. And I did it on purpose. I just trusted the advice of a couple of friends, unrelated to each other, who all work in the arts. “It’s very good”, they said. So I went to see the movie. If you are not one of those spectators who need to have a logical and clear plot to follow, but you let yourself go with the images which flow one after the other – if you like Cronenberg, Lynch, the video-game aesthetics, and the Cremaster Cycle by Matthew Barney – then stop reading this post and go to the movie theater. If you live in New York go to the Film Forum or the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the only two theaters that are showing this movie in the city, and hurry-up because the screenings will end soon!
I got out of the movie theater without being sure about having completely understood everything. But that was not the point. After 13 years of absence from the big screen, Leos Carax comes back with a high-adrenaline movie, which reprises a variety of genres (fantasy, action, thriller, romantic drama, b-movie etc) in the time of a workday long ride on a white limousine. After appearing in a short cameo at the beginning of the film, where he prepares us for the whimsical journey, Carax returns behind the camera to direct his muse actor Denis Lavant in the role of “Monsieur Oscar” and his 11 transformations.
It is not very clear what Mounsieur Oscar’s job is. He virtually scampers about a non-stereotypical Paris to attend a tight schedule of meetings, reeled off by his driver, the amazing Céline (Edith Scob). But the difference between him and the average businessman is that at his first appointment he’s dressed like a begging gypsy, he then becomes a repulsive dwarf who kidnaps a model (Eva Mendes) from a fashion shoot at Père Lachaise, he’s an old man in his dying bed, a futuristic ninja lover who has acrobatic sex with a similar creature, he’s the killer of his alter-ego and many other things. He finally returns back home to a family that is not the same one he left in the morning.
He’s most likely a very experienced actor who has shattered his identity into a thousand pieces and who carries around the burden of his daily solitude, hiding it behind all these incredible characters. And he does it only “pour la beauté du geste” (for the beauty of the act itself), asking to himself “Who were we when we were what we were, back then”.