In the many many many movies I’ve seen, occasionally someone decides this is not the right film for him/her and leaves the room. The biggest walkout I’ve witnessed was at the Ghent where an Icelandic pile of pretentious garbage managed to turn a full house into a virtually empty room: during the end credits only 1/3 of the audience had remained seated. Holy Motors had a wonderful audience of five people the night I went to see it and I had two reasons for staying. I wanted to see how many people would leave this monstrosity (sadly: 0 – I had high hopes at one point, but it turned out the girl had gone to the loo and disappointingly returned) and I wanted to see if this **** could get any worse. The answer: yes!
However, I can’t sayHoly Motors didn’t teach me anything. I’ve now learned that the director’s name is Leos Carax and not Léon. And that concludes all I’ve acquired from this movie. To say it’s a bad movie would be an insult to the word “bad”: it’s the biggest heap of pretentious crap I’ve seen in a long time. Even From Hell It Came, the 1958 movie about a walking tree, had more artistic value.
The movie has no plot, so let’s waste your time with a brief summary. Mister Oscar is a man who gets into his limo and then changes into an old woman who’s begging on the street. That’s the first of many disguises: Oscar changes into a new persona the entire movie, from monster and disappointed father via green screen actor over assassin to family man. He’s driven around town by Céline (Edith Scob). At the end of the movie Céline drops him off at his house where his family of apes (oh, the humanity!) eagerly await him while Céline returns to the factory Holy Motors, where all the limos go at night for some rest. And when the lights switch off, the cars start talking. Have I inadvertently sold this movie to you? Then I must disappoint you: it’s not a comedy.
Oscar (Denis Lavant) is described as a “creature”, a “shadowy figure” because he slips from one character to another, but that’s the problem: he doesn’t. For quite some time, you’re watching him applying make-up, ready to dive into a new story, but none of those stories end. Carax isn’t interested in what happens next. Does he want to look like David Lynch and his other-worldly settings and characters? Perhaps, but Carax can’t create atmosphere. You might as well watch ten random videos from YouTube and you get the same experience. Worse, the rich character Oscar is at the start of the movie is followed by bodyguards. Makes sense, but once Oscar has changed into the costume/body of the begging granny, the bodyguards are still around – only to disappear completely a second later.
Similarly, there’s a scene where Oscar dresses up as a monster, in order to disturb a fashion shoot on a churchyard. To prove he’s a monster, he bites off the fingers of the nice assistant, grabs the model (Eva Mendes) and then he takes her to an underground lair. Then it’s up to Mendes to flash her naked body for no obvious reason… I’m sorry, it’s an “art movie”, for artistical reasons. Actually, a Eastern-European who takes part in a gangbang porn video is more allowed to call her DP scene artistic than this pretentious smut of a nude model singing to a ‘monster’. Which of course is followed by… oh yeah, I forgot Carax isn’t interested in ending his scenes… next!
In the middle of the film, Oscar suddenly gets instructions for an intermezzo. Cue a scene in a church where Oscar and a band play the R.L. Burnside song “Let my baby ride” on accordeons (here). It is almost the only highlight of the film. So why did people stick around? Well, the übergay guy obviously waited for the scene with Eva Grace, who’s played by Kylie Minogue. She’s a similar creature and she spends some time with Oscar, bursts into a song and then, in character as creature, jumps to her death. Hurrah for another great moment in cinema!
Holy Motors seems to be a metaphor for the dying art of old-fashioned cinema, but honestly, if classic cinema was always like this, I wouldn’t mind not ever seeing another movie again. Technically, the movie looks good enough and the cast is decent enough to get at least 3/10 on my ratings’ system, but for its sheer ability to annoy me beyond belief we’ll gladly deduct a bit of the final score. Is there really no good news today? Well yes, today is the birthday of Emily Brontë. Oh, I’m sorry, you meant good news about Holy Motors? Erm, let’s put it this way, eventually the lights will pop up in the cinema again.