Today: June 19, 2024

Holy Motors

Holy Motors is a film that you do not watch, instead you must grapple with it, let it wash over you and, if the gods are smiling, find a method within the madness that allows you to appreciate it as a piece of cinema to be studied and pondered over.

Holy Motors is a film that you do not watch, instead
you must grapple with it, let it wash over you and, if the gods are smiling,
find a method within the madness that allows you to appreciate it as a piece of
cinema to be studied and pondered over.

Intellectual types who decipher what is going on will no doubt inform us
that Holy Motors is that most dreaded of things; a worthy film. The reality is more tangible; a film
about films but not in The Artist or
Hugo methodology but rather a film that
deals in the idea of films. The
idea that one can get lost in the reality of a story, just as an actor can be
so immersed in a role he is playing as to lose and sense of who is he beneath
the façade.

Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) bids farewell to his
family and sets off in a stretch limo for a day’s work. Heading into Paris his driver Celine (Edith Scob) informs him that today’s
itinerary consists of nine appointments. And then Holy Motors becomes a little bit trippy as
Oscar’s appointments consist of him donning a series of costumes and prosthetics
in order to play varying roles around town. From a street begging woman to a motion capture actor, Oscar
flits from job to job all the while we’re left wondering why he is acting out
these strange realities.

Lofty and
certainly likely to mess with your head, Holy Motors is a trip to the dark side
of cinema but a trip with a sense of fun irony about it. Witnessing Lavant, who by the end of
the film is indistinguishable from his character Oscar (the name alone seems to
hint at something ‘worthy’), transforming from one persona to the next is
transfixing. But between each role
there is a melancholia about Oscar; an isolation that while not lost in his
characters he is certainly alienated in a world in which he is unable to form a
genuine bond with anyone for fear of breaking character.

At times there
are obvious parallels to the work of David
but Holy Motors never looks to instill a sense of dread. Where Lynch creates nightmares, Holy
Motor’s director Leos Carax conjures
wistful moments of deep-seated emotion.
Watching Oscar become the Beast to Eva
supermodel Beauty is both surreal and hypnotic. That he then turns to the craft of
haberdashery in order to cover her up in a home made burqa before disrobing
only lends to the outlandish sense of reality as to what the hell is going

Film scholars
will no doubt pore over the meaning behind Holy Motors for years to come but in
truth it can be whatever you want it to be. A metaphor for the madness behind the acting world, a letter
to humanities’ alienation from each other or perhaps merely a commentary on the
absurd films that mainstream cinema concocts. As the limos of the film gather in the final scene they
begin a discourse that ends with the line ‘no more action’ to which all the
cars, young and old, respond with a whispered ‘amen’. If Hollywood creates mindless action then Holy Motors is
surely the antithesis of such blockbuster behemoths in almost every way

Lavant carries
the film, playing each role with a sense of dedication and steely
determination, refusing to break character within character. But while in his stretched limo, as his
soul is slowly sapped away, you care quite deeply for him. By the time he meets fellow ‘actor’, or
whatever they are, Eva (Kylie Minogue)
he has taken us on such a journey that a glimpse at his emotional core is
almost unbearable.

A veritable
circus of strange, Holy Motors is a beguiling and alienating film which is
either a stroke of sheer madness of utter brilliance. The truth is probably a bit of both. Amen.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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