Transformer – Holy Motors review

Holy Motors – Starring Denis LavantEdith Scob, and Kylie Minogue. Directed by Leos Carax. Originally published June 15, 2012. By Richard Haridy.

Holy Motors plays the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 11 and 14, 2012. It arrives in Australian cinemas August 23, 2012. This review was first run during the Sydney Film Festival.

Holy Motors is a bewildering, indescribably wonderful film that reminded me why I fell in love with cinema. Leos Carax’s fifth feature – his first in 13 years – is insane in the best possible way; rich yet ethereal, simple yet complex.

Opening with glimpses from one of cinema’s earliest endeavours, we cut to an audience watching a movie. They look bored (and may even be dead) as they stare right through us. We then shift to a man getting out of bed (writer/director Carax); he slowly moves about his room before discovering a Kafkaesque hidden door in the wall. Stepping through, he appears in a theatre, and as he gazes at the screen we plunge into the movie.

Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant) is driven from ‘appointment’ to ‘appointment’ in a grand white limousine by Celine (the legendary Edith Scob, of Georges Franju’s masterpiece Eyes Without A Facereferenced notably here). Each ‘appointment’ leads Oscar to live another life; performing a part for some unseen camera, before returning to the limousine and moving to the next ‘show’.

Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes both appear in gloriously disparate moments. Mendes in particular bravely subjects herself to an hilariously absurd interaction with Carax’s magnificent troll-like creation, ‘Merde’, previously seen in 2007’s anthology picture Tokyo (also featuring shorts from Michel Gondry and Bong Joon-ho).

Holy Motors is bursting at the seams with ideas and possibility, reveling in the simple pleasure of the human form. It’s not a mere random detail that he bookends the picture with shots from Étienne-Jules Marey’s 19th century studies of humans in motion. Carax reminds us of the purity in joyously and sensorially engaging with an aesthetic experience.

This is a challenging work that appeals to the senses as much as the intellect. Watching it made me feel like I was 15 years old again, drunk on the magic of cinema, with butterflies of excitement in my belly. I’m usually wary of how we live in a world filled with irresponsible hyperbole but here we go:  Holy Motors is visionary, absurd, melancholy, ecstatic, confounding, and ultimately transcendent. If 2012 spawns a better film I will eat a bouquet of flowers.


Holy Motors plays the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 11 and 14, 2012. It arrives in Australian cinemas August 23, 2012.

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