"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
Ponder that phrase when you see Leos Carax's Holy Motors. It is one of the most bizarre releases of 2012, yet it is also one of its finest.
A man (Carax) rises from his bed and opens a door to a theater, revealing an audience watching the screen. What they're watching isn't specifically revealed but it's assumed that they're watching the same thing we're about to see, and that's Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant).
Oscar, as we come to find, is a man of many faces. His job is to arrive at predetermined appointments to perform for an audience he cannot see. These appointments are essentially acting gigs and he's driven to each one in a limo which doubled as his changing room. Oscar plays a variety of roles, such as a banker, a female hobo, a motion-capture actor al a Andy Serkis (Gollum), an assassin, a father, and others that beg to be seen rather than talked about. Each stop is a surreal combination of reality and fiction, but it's always provocative, darkly comical and entirely crazy. All the while there is no indication of who Oscar really is, why he's doing it, and who he's truly doing it for.
What drives Holy Motors is Lavant. This man is truly an actor. Each appointment he attends is a test of his skills and he rivals anything that even Daniel Day-Lewis has done. The recent Cloud Atlas had a myriad of actors playing multiples roles, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. Lavant blows them away. He is astonishing in an already astonishing film. He could easily win an Oscar if he did this in a more straightforward film.
Holy Motors is one of few films I have trouble discerning what it's about. It seems to be about the death of cinema, and Carax is using cinematic themes to produce a strange irony. But it also seems like it's an existential piece and comments on the idea that we're merely players for a higher form of life. It could be about both, or it could be about neither, but despite that I was mesmerized by the images onscreen.
This is the first offering I've seen from Carax, and his style feels Lynch-ian in its delivery. But he his truly unique, even though Holy Motors pays homage to films of the past. To ask questions about what's going on is fleeting - it's absolutely a ride that one has to allow to just happen. JV