Deni Lavant contemplating his next appointment in Holy Motors.
Holy Motors is, in a word, weird; in three words, bat shit crazy. This trait running throughout the film is certainly part of its allure, but, unfortunately, also a big part of its repellent.
The film is written and directed by Leos Carax and is his first feature film since Pola X in 1999. It begins with a cinema audience staring back at us for long enough to start thinking that, perhaps, we should have been doing something to entertain them. Thankfully, the shot changed before I could embarrass everyone with my body popping skills. We are soon introduced to the mysterious Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant; A Very Long Engagement), as he starts his working day – a high flying office job, it first seems, but we soon see it is much more bizarre and interesting. We see him getting up to all sorts of adventures in different costumes, as he is driven around Paris in a limo full of make-up, costumes and props by Celine (Edith Scob; Eyes Without a Face). The why to this insanity is not revealed straightaway, so we have to just accept him asking for change as an old beggar woman, performing erotic acrobatics in a motion capture suit and stabbing people in the neck.
Lavant is brilliantly diverse in this role. Many may well recognise him from a few old Stella Artois adverts and being repeatedly hit by cars in U.N.K.L.E’s Rabbit in your Headlights video, but he has had quite a prolific career in France and Carax’s back catalogue. His standout performance within Holy Motors is the green clad, flower and human finger munching vagabond who takes a liking to Eva Mendes, but there are ten others in what is a truly great feat of acting athleticism. The statuesque Mendes is entertaining in her mute, apathetic role and Kylie – you know, Minogue –, as what seems to be an ex of Oscar’s, is convincing and moving as she randomly turns the film into a musical for a scene.
There are themes raised throughout, such as the distinction between real life and performance (and whether there is a difference) and the ousting of old technology for new. They are all thought provoking and such, but a film has to be entertaining too. However much I would like to love Holy Motors - for is wackiness, its originality, its unpredictability - it just did not quite work. The concept could have been better executed, the roles Lavant took on more interesting, poignant and funny. It definitely nailed it at times but, overall, it felt boring and overcooked which just leaves us with a slightly pretentious mess and a longing for the fin throughout.
Holy Motors will be shown at Broadway until Thursday 11 October.