Amazing ‘Holy Motors’ a shapeshifting film

Courtesy PhotoAlways changing: Monsieur Oscar

“Holy Motors” is only the fifth feature film in 28 years by Leos Carax, who is perhaps the most mesmerizing, poetic and baffling filmmaker in France.

His best film, “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf” — released here in 1999 as “The Lovers on the Bridge” — reached the glorious, grandiose heights of passion that “Gone with the Wind” and “Titanic” were praised for.

On the other hand, the amazing “Holy Motors” is more about the remnants of passion.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

Denis Lavant, the gravel-faced star of four of Carax's features, stars as Monsieur Oscar, a mysterious figure with a strange job. Over the course of a day, he rides around in the back of a limo, donning different costumes and applications of makeup for various “appointments.” He becomes an old lady beggar, a gangster and a dying old man. He puts on a motion-capture suit — a Cirque du Soleil-esque bodysuit with lights — and performs some sexualized acrobatics with a female co-star.

He also becomes a vile thing known as “merde” — last seen in Carax's segment of the 2009 anthology film “Tokyo!” — a bizarre, violent sewer dweller with fire-red hair and a milky-white eye. This creature kidnaps a beautiful model (Eva Mendes) during a photo shoot in a cemetery.

Later, Oscar runs into a woman (Kylie Minogue) who may have been a former love, and who seems to be doing the same kind of job. They share a tender song.

Like many of his fellow French filmmakers, Carax was once a film critic, and his films ponder the nature of films and storytelling as much as they tell stories. He pays tribute to King Vidor’s “The Crowd” and Georges Franju’s “Eyes Without a Face.” Edith Scob, who plays Monsieur Oscar's compassionate limo driver, was the star of the latter.

The various segments clearly represent different film genres: the musical, the horror film, the weepie, etc. The movie is, by turns, haunting, moving and shocking.

But Carax also asks questions about the nature of performance. Is Monsieur Oscar performing for anyone in particular, or maybe everyone in general? Does he ever get to be “himself,” even behind the scenes? In the movie’s most human moments, we see Oscar growing weary, perhaps not even remembering why he’s doing this kind of work.

The movie’s final moments are among its most bizarre, raising more questions than they answer. We all have masks we wear, the movie seems to say, and none of us know truly who we are — not even talking cars.

Just Posted

New Chinatown station to be named for Rose Pak, but opponents vow to keep fighting

Debate over power broker’s legacy exposes deep rifts in Chinese community

City shutting down long-term mental health beds to expand hospital Navigation Center

The City is preparing to close dozens of permanent, residential treatment beds… Continue reading

Free speech group sues city over raids on journalist

Free speech advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to force the San… Continue reading

Two rescued after plane crash near Half Moon Bay

Two people escaped injury Tuesday evening in a plane crash into the… Continue reading

Judge decides to hold Embarcadero attack suspect in jail

Facing new charges, man at center of controversy will not be released ahead of trial

Most Read