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Screen » Film

Identity Theft

Holy Motors' dreamlike excursion messes with our minds



Holy Motors is the reason I go to movies.

Once in a while I see something this extraordinary that captures everything I want from a flick: surrealism, dreamlike sequences, a "what's next" attitude, conflict, pathos, smatterings of violence, supremely dark humor, a ton of images to make one ponder the universe along with insanely great photography and performances that go beyond the call of duty. I would do this flick a disservice if I called it anything short of a masterpiece.

Not everyone is going to get it and there's plenty not to get, but you will not walk away empty-headed.

Denis Lavant plays Monsieur Oscar, a strange fellow who is chauffeured around in a white stretch limo by Celine (Edith Scob). He has a fully equipped theatrical dressing room in the back of the car, and gets ready for a succession of "appointments" by putting on various elaborate disguises.

Holy Motors then takes us on an odyssey seen through the lens of a limo trip through the streets of Paris. Creepy, beautiful and weird, the premise seems simple but it ends up messing with reality.

What does become clear is that Director Leos Carax has vision and originality to spare. Motors exudes passion, mischief and calamity. As mention of hidden cameras seeps in, we find out that actors all over the city are in limos doing the same thing. And as in the other recent limo picture Cosmopolis the ride will take its toll.

Here's what I think this movie is about. The beginning shows an audience in a theater watching something, so it makes sense that all the scenarios acted out by Monsieur Oscar with professional precision are for hidden cameras intended for probably rich people who can afford to watch real life through requested scenarios. Monsieur Oscar is acting in preplanned narratives in which all involved play their parts. Each vignette plays out in strange yet warped familiar encounters from mythology, movies and literature. This takes Reality TV to a whole new level. It all starts to make sense until gunplay is involved, then the film veers into true WTF moments that can't get any weirder. We, the audience, at times relate to the anonymous audience in the flick. There's genuine raging sentiment here amidst the sprawling chaos. Nothing is as it seems, yet everything is as it seems.

HM is one of those surreal existential puzzles that's good fun to watch at the same time. I was constantly reminded of more surrealist filmmakers such as Jodorowsky, Fellini, Lynch, Fassbinder and even Charlie Kaufman. Like Kaufman's Synecdoche NY this is all up to individual interpretation. Disorder and confusion surround us and we have our deep and dark emotions to contend with, and that is our only little world—the bigger picture doesn't exist until when we least expect it, there it is looming over our head like a beautiful shroud.

In this eerie surreal world we are treated to tidbits of pure genius more times than I will give away here. In addition to a demented scene with a fetching Eva Mendez, there is an accordion scene about halfway through that totally rocks.

There is a great line in HM of "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; what if there is no beholder?" Let me assure you when you watch this flick, you are the beholder.


Starring Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Monogue

Directed by Leos Carax

Rated R

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