Starring: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendez
You may like this if you liked: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008), Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997), O Lucky Man (Lindsay Anderson, 1973)
So, we need a plot synopsis. Wish me luck! Well, Monsieur Oscar (Lavant) is a man driven around Paris in a white Limousine to his various ‘appointments’. These appointments happen to involve him dressing up in various bizarre costumes and becoming a varied selection of characters. While in costume he performs some extremely bizarre acts; first he is a beggar woman asking for change, then dressed in a motion capture lycra suit performing an erotic dance with a female similarly dressed character. Then he is an extremely horny and aggressive goblin who kidnaps a supermodel (Mendez). These various ‘appointments’ become increasingly bizarre and he even ‘dies’ in a couple of them and one involves Kylie Minogue as a fellow limo passenger singing at him.
It all sounds a bit random doesn’t it? Well it most certainly is and there can be various theories as what they all mean and what links them. I will not go into that as it is all pretty obvious when watching, but rest assured Holy Motors is one of the most unique, ambitious and downright bonkers films of 2012. It has attracted very mixed reviews and is in my opinion actually rather average, perhaps a little too smug and just not work as a feature length film.
Anyone who has read my previous review will know I am all for a film with unconventional narratives, but for me Holy Motors is in my view and admirable failure with a hint of directorial complacency. I have a belief, that admittedly may be naive, that every screenwriter, director, auteur has some kind of idea at the foundation of a film they do. No matter how random and utter nonsense a film may seem, those that made it had an integral idea or theme that they wanted to base the narrative around. The themes presented in Holy Motors are actually quite straightforward but in my view not enough to sustain a running time of just less than two hours.
At the half way point I was thinking “I get it, what now?” unfortunately it was only increasingly bizarre ‘appointments’ meaning that for me Holy Motors becomes increasingly boring and tedious experience that I desperately wanted to be over.
There is obvious affection and passion contained here as the film tries to be playful and references both the physical process of acting and performance as well as films of yesteryear. However, that is all well and good, but for me this still has to be held together by a story with characters that are actually interesting and in between the bizarre ‘appointments’ is nothing. The ending unfortunately makes very little attempt to bring it all together, with the exception of an extremely enjoyable scene involving parked limos which was actually in my opinion the best scene in the film.
The whole film about films thing is easy to get but not enough, leading to an unfortunate feeling of smugness and style over substance, but producing a very frustrating experience for the viewer. I understand a director doing what the hell he wants with his film, but not the extremely positive reviews Holy Motors has received. If Holy Motors was a short film then I would have felt it would defiantly work, but at just under two hours it simply does not. I know there are many that love this film, but I felt it was extremely complacent of Carax to think we would all find the style and affection to be enough. I personally needed some substance and found none. This is a shame as Denis Lavent gives an excellent and extremely physical performance, and there is obvious creativity and genuine passion from Carax here.
Smug, complacent and increasingly boring; Holy Motors for me was a case of style over substance complacently thinking the ‘style’ would be enough to sustain an extremely overlong running time. For me this has to be one of 2012s biggest disappointments.