The old “identity-as-performance” and “world-as-a-stage” chestnut gets a fresh wild spin in Holy Motors, the audacious new provocation from Leos Carax that thrilled and killed at Cannes back in May and that now reaches British shores with a considerable weight of expectation. Consistently confounding, endlessly - perhaps excessively - inventive, Holy Motors is the walking definition of an acquired taste, out-doing even Guy Maddin’s Keyhole as the year’s most mercurial movie mind-fuck, even if it fails to win its way through to the emotional ambush that Maddin’s ghosts-and-gangsters opus managed to achieve - for this viewer, at least. Still, for all its indulgences, longueurs and elements that feel less like ideas than affectations, Holy Motors proves an indelible experience and one whose heady and perverse pleasures I hope that British audiences will embrace - including those lured in solely by the (somewhat over-hyped) appearance of the nation’s favourite Aussie.
Conceptually, the movie is a cinephile wet dream, riffing around French and American film history from Etienne-Jules Marey’s early scientific human-movement studies to cutting-edge CGI as it traces a day in the life of (the rather cutely-monikered) Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant). (Why not Monsieur César, non?) Driven around Paris in a stretch limo by the unflappable Céline (Edith Scob), with the car serving as his dressing-room-cum-sanctuary of sorts, Oscar is given a series of “assignments” to fill out his day. These involve him venturing into the real world [sic!] in a variety of guises, from elderly beggar-woman to concerned père, motion-capture cipher to hair-munching sewer-sprite. In between these duties, Oscar waxes philosophical with a shady geezer (Michel Piccoli) and meets an old flame, Jean (Kylie Minogue), who - like him; like all of us? - has her own separate set of performative assignments to fulfil. Full review at Kubrick on the Guillotine.