NYFF Daily Reviews: Holy Motors
Directed by Léos Carax
Screens Thursday, October 11
Léos Carax detonates as many traditional notions of cinema as possible with Holy Motors, a fantastic - and sometimes phantasmagoric - saga through a cine-metaphoric dreamscape.
Opening with scratchy archival footage and a countershot of a rapt theater audience proves to be Carax's initial, but hardly final, nod to the fact that his first feature since 1999's Pola X is concerned with the relationship between art and spectator. That bond only grows in weirder, wilder ways after Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) walks through a secret door in his motel room (near an airport, a symbol of transition) and finds himself in a theater balcony in a haunting moment of filmic surrealism that recalls David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.
Nonetheless, even that beguiling intro hardly foreshadows the identity-shifting madness to follow, in which Oscar is driven around Paris by Céline (Edith Scob) in a white limousine-cum-dressing-room, completing nine "appointments" that require him to don makeup guises and assume bizarre roles out in public.
Those include an old, crippled female beggar, the father of a tween girl, a dying old man, and the gibberish-spouting, money-eating, long-goateed monster Levant previously played in Carax's contribution to the 2009 triptych Tokyo!.
Here, that milky-eyed man-creature enacts a wacko Beauty and the Beast-style affair with Eva Mendes' unperturbed fashion model in a sequence of supreme hilarious craziness that features Mendes' dress being cut into a burka and veil, and a nude and fully erect Levant lying his head in Mendes' lap while she sings him a lullaby. The point of this episodic insanity, as it were, would seem to be simultaneously expanding and collapsing the possibilities of film, all while recognizing life (like cinema) as a myriad series of roles to be assumed and jettisoned - including, according to Carax's loony finale, marriage and parentage to monkeys. (Nick Schager)
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