Movie Review: Holy Motors


The different levels of movie engagement tend to fall somewhere along the lines of passive or interactive. Occasionally we want to be taken away to another world; other times, we want to unravel a mystery. And then there is Holy Motors, a film about films; a commentary on cinema and acting by French director Leos Carax that simultaneously engages you and sets you adrift, leaving you wondering just exactly what is going on, and what, if anything, it all means.

The esoterically-titled French film opens in Toronto this weekend, having debuted in May at the Cannes Film Festival, and it is something truly remarkable to behold — particularly in a theatre.

The film opens with the audience sitting in place, waiting for the action to begin, as Carax awakens, opens his bedroom door, and escapes into the mysterious world beyond.

Certainly, part of the wonder of the film is never exactly knowing what is happening, going to happen, or has just happened. Put simply, though — and in attempt to maintain its beauty — I can tell you that the story follows the travels of a mysterious man named Oscar (Denis Lavant) through one day and night in Paris, as he is driven by his equally mysterious limo driver from one bizarre situation to the next. It is all to some unknown end, for some unknown purpose.

Just as Oscar is driven — controlled that is — by his confident female driver, we are taken on a journey by Oscar, never knowing ourselves where he will take us. Oscar trusts his driver, and we should trust him.

Lavant gives not one, not two, but nearly a dozen fantastic performances. Unlike a film such as Cloud Atlas, where the fourth or fifth character iterations of Tom Hanks or Hugh Grant are laughably unbelievable and distracting, Lavant fits each part. Furthermore, when you see Tom Hanks play a criminal, it is Tom Hanks playing a criminal; he is just too famous. When you see Denis Lavant playing a criminal, though, you only see a criminal.

Ultimately, what you are watching is a commentary on modern film, and what we judge to be of true value. Do you want something realistic, or something so far-and-away fictional that it removes us from the banality of reality? Oscar is an aging artist, one that seeks to engage and enchant an audience —any audience — that still desires what he can offer. All that matters is whether or not you want to stick around long enough to see what he can do.

When the film debuted at Cannes, it was loved by half of those who saw it and loathed by the other half. It is worth seeing, worth talking about and worth trying to understand, though the director may tell you that there is nothing there more than the pictures on the screen. While Lavant described Holy Motors as "a great poetic declaration of love for mankind today,” when asked if he felt the same, Carax told The Guardian, "No. But that's OK.”

It’s that kind of movie.

Holy Motors, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-599-8433. Nov. 16-22


Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Too Close to Call: Whip it good

Too Close to Call: Whip it good

Grab your tickets and take your seats for the ultimate showdown of T.O.’s top roller derby leagues. Whose teams are supreme? Who rules the rink? You decide.
Posted 1 hour ago
Ear candy: The five best songs we heard this week with Andrew Bird, Braids, The Young Novelists and more

Ear candy: The five best songs we heard this week with Andrew Bird, Braids, The Young Novelists and more

We got a little trans-Atlantic for this week’s column, which features a lo-fi band from the Isle of Man amongst others. Herewith, culled from the dozens of songs to arrive this week, our top five musical moments.
Posted 4 hours ago
The Dreaded After-Work Workout: Toronto Fitness Expert Weighs In

The Dreaded After-Work Workout: Toronto Fitness Expert Weighs In

To become more active, Trotter encourages using the “ten minute rule,” where you commit yourself to just doing at least ten minutes of exercise each day.
Posted 23 hours ago
Date Night: Apples from the Desert

Date Night: Apples from the Desert

This weekend (Mar. 8 at 2 p.m.) in the Gallery Lounge at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, you can take your date out for a dramatic reading of the play, Apples from the Desert.
Posted 1 day ago