Bizarre, beautiful, ugly, unpredictable, creepy, perverse, funny, magical, exhilarating, slick, mesmerizing and allegorical are more than a handful of ways to describe Holy Motors. Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) enters a stretch limo to start his work day that involves changing into a variety of different roles, i.e. an assassin, businessman, father and beggar. Céline (Édith Scob), his chauffeur, hands him a folder that informs him of what role he should transform into. The inside of that limo serves as a dressing room where he stick on and removes fake skin for his next role. What's the significance of his line of work? What does film say about modern times and identity?
Fortunately, writer/director Léos Carax leaves those questions unanswered explicitly so that you, as an intelligent, perceptive member of the audience, can come up with your own answers. If this were a Hollywood film, you'd find a lot of exposition and everything would be spoon-fed to you; Carax resorts to virtually no exposition. At first, the transformations of Oscar feel slightly exhausting and they almost veer into pretension as he constantly goes back and forth between the limo and his new role. You'll feel as though you're going through a roller coaster ride of emotions from one minute to the next. The more you observe Oscar and ponder the implications regarding the film's social commentaries, the more fascinating and wondrous the film becomes.
Denis Lavant delivers a tour de force performance--or performances, rather--that will haunt you with its sheer rawness. Rarely has an actor displayed versatility so deftly in one entire film. It probably takes a highly skilled actor to be able to shake off a role and transform instantly to another one so believable. He's simply mesmerizing from start to finish.
Bravo to Carax for writing such bold, provocative and refreshingly original film that demands multiple viewings. Sure, many of the visuals are stunning and breathtaking to behold on the big screen, but style isn't all that Holy Motors offers: it also has plenty of substance to boot. It's quite a powerful statement about how modern times and, particularly, the advancement of technology, has affected our own identities. Technology has advanced, but do you trulythink that human beings are advancing along with it? Technology complicates our relationships, sometimes chaotically, and coldly alienates us in many ways that make us forget about how to treat other human beings with respect and compassion. Paradoxically, within all of that chaos and alienation lies coherence, order and, yes, even a little warmth and humanity even if they're fleeting.