Simon Dillon reviews this surreal, but compelling film

Holy Motors

Everything about Holy Motors is bizarre, but in a good way. Writer/director Leos Carax has crafted an utterly baffling, wilfully surreal, but oddly compelling piece that will alienate and enthral in equal measure.

The film revolves around a day in the life of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), an actor whose chauffeur drives him from appointment to appointment, where he plays various characters for a set of cameras that may or may not exist. Along the way, there is comment on everything from homelessness to the banking crisis, the fashion industry, the French burkha ban and probably several other issues I failed to notice. Yet above all Holy Motors is about the hollowness of acting and how an acting career can exact a terrible toll. We never get to know who Oscar really is, only the characters he is playing (very convincingly). It's a tour-de-force role for Lavant and something of a directorial triumph for Carax, operating in territory previously mined by David Lynch amongst others. It's also worth noting out-of-leftfield appearances from Eva Mendes and - in a particularly head-scratching moment - Kylie Minogue.

The main reason Holy Motors doesn't descend into pretentious symbolic mush is the sheer playfulness with which it consistently and entertainingly surprises the audience - with satire, black comedy, horror and even musical numbers. At times the surrealism is nigh-on Pythonesque, and although the film sometimes has seemingly profound things to say, at other times it is just being silly for the sake of it.

There is some very graphic nudity that will offend some, though I must stress that it takes place in a darkly comical, non-sexual context. Quite honestly it is difficult to imagine how the sequence in question - involving a burkha clad model and a naked tramp (one of Oscar's characters) - could work without the nudity, as the satirical point that is being made would be lost.

There are other things here to offend too - strong bloody violence and bad language included - but lovers of weird cinema are nevertheless in for a treat. Ultimately, the artifice of acting is what is under the microscope in Holy Motors, and when you think about it, being an actor is a very, very peculiar profession. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.