Holy Motors (2012)

“I have a plan to go mad.”

‘Holy Motors’, directed by Leos Carax in 2012, is a fantasy about a man, played by Carax regular Denis Lavant, who, throughout the movie, adopts various appearances and roles. The film follows a day in his life as he moves from one weird assignment to the next pretending to be, amongst others, an elderly man dying in bed, a scarred gangster, an actor wearing a motion capture suit and, most memorably, a red haired nightmarish man called Monsieur Merde. There’s no storyline running through the film as such, but the world Carax creates is a little like in the films of Charlie Kaufmann. Lavant plays an actor whose life and career is to dip in and out of reality performing in frequently violent and absurd vignettes. We also discover that he isn’t the only person in this world playing a role and this blurs the line between what we think are real situations, the actions of the actors in the film and the actions of the actors playing them. Highlights are the musical interlude involving a marching band of accordionists, for me reminiscent of the dance scene in ‘Bande a Part’ at least in terms of function. This moment provides a lifting and absorbing moment but also propels the film into the second half. The overall feel of the film, the balance of fantasy and reality reminiscent of Buñuel and Cocteau is the real achievement and Lavant’s extraordinary versatile performance (“Mr Shit” being a particularly grotesque case) is a key part of this. Finally, the closing scene in white limousines in an underground carpark talk philosophically to one another is the icing on the cake.

Would I recommend it? Yes – absolutely.  A double bill with ‘Les Amants du Pont-Neuf’ would demonstrate the two poles of Carax and Lavant’s screen relationship. Alternatively, on of Luis Buñuel’s movies, most likely ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ would be an excellent comparison with a movie with a similar sense of the absurd.

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