DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Holy Motors, Blu-ray (2013)

Although I didn’t like most of it, I’m glad I saw it.

Published on February 28, 2013

Holy Motors, Blu-ray (2013)

Director: Leos Carax
Cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Kyle Minogue, Michel Piccoli, Eva Mendes
Studio: Indomina/Vivendi [2/26/13]
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: French DD 5.1, PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English
Extras: “The Making of Holy Motors,” Kyle Minogue interview, International & U.S. trailers
Length: 115 minutes
Rating: ?

On one level this was the most frustrating and confusing movie I’ve seen in some time. On another, although I didn’t like most of it, I’m glad I saw it. The filmmaker wanted to capture elements of an entire life in one day in one character, and it is a huge tribute to cinema in general and various classic films in particular. It is also very very French, loose, poetic, unexplained and maddening.

The original idea for the film came to Carax seeing some of the super-long limousines tooling around Paris. The interiors are so huge a man could live out a whole series of lives inside, and that is what Monsieur Oscar does in his. He laboriously puts on makeup, wigs and costumes to exit the limo as nine different characters during the movie, supposedly paid for his “appointments” by some unseen forces we never learn anything about. He plays a bent-over gypsy beggar woman, a motion-capture ninja warrior, a crazy man who haunts the Paris sewers and does a sort of Beauty-and-the-Beast thing, a dying old man, an unhappy father with a teenaged daughter, etc. The conclusion of the film visits the garage where all the similar limos are stored for the night, as, left alone, they talk to one another about their days and concerns. That section, plus the startling accordion band march thru the cathedral, were my favorite parts of the movie. Among the many references to different types of movies is the scene with Kyle Minogue where she suddenly bursts into song, in a tribute to musicals such as Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The cinematography, by the way, is not that special, nor even very good.

My advice if you see this one is don’t attempt to understand it. It’s symbolic, absurdist nonsense, so view it just as you would Un Chien Andalou—which both Bunuel and Dali admitted they just assembled various absurd shots for without trying to construct any meaning.

—John Sunier

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