Blu-ray Review: ‘Holy Motors’ Realizes Sacred Cinema

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CHICAGO – One of the best movies of 2012 had monsters, action heroes, animation, heart-breaking drama, Christ imagery and a sense of redemption in all of what it conveyed. “Holy Motors” may have been ignored at Oscar time, but it’s destined to make an impact for cinema fans in generations to come, and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 26th. Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

The film is monumentally impressive, even just considering the mix of familiar film genres the writer/director Leos Carax presents and deconstructs. There is no winking at the camera per se, but each of the nine “appointments” have a sense of ripe satire, a broad and expressive urgency that suggests a good chain pulling. Within this context, there is beauty and truth, social/economic class tweaking, symbolism and interpretive elements that will challenge film students in perpetuity. “Holy Motors” is a movie of movies, containing a number of wish fulfillments and in the end, a sense of mortality.

Eva Mendes, Denis Levant
Beauty/Beast: Eva Mendes and Denis Levant in ‘Holy Motors’
Photo credit: Indomina Group

The “appointments” that were referred to earlier are the basis for the sequences in the film. After a peculiar beginning scene in an apartment (with a character named “Le Dormeur”) that morphs into a movie theater, a mysterious man named Mr. Oscar (Denis Levant) revs up the film as an apparent captain of industry, so reviled as to need constant protection. He rides in a garish white limousine, driven by Céline (Édith Scob), which is outfitted with all manner of theatrical make-up, costumes and wigs. Oscar is executing his appointments, a series of nine personas that interact with the city of Paris – including a beggar, assassin, father and even a performer for computer generated animation. The aim of these appointments are unclear, or maybe they are clarity itself.

The last statement of the previous paragraph is meant to try and define the film, which is up in the air as far as meaning and layers. That is what makes the appointments so alive, because they take to the limit whatever theme they are trying to tackle, and in a way blow them to smithereens. Like monster movies? How about a monster with an obvious carnal arousal? Like crime stories or hit men? How about a hit man who wears a “pinhead” mask, which echoes a crown of thorns? “Holy Motors” wants to take us to all these considerations, which makes it thought provoking and philosophical, as well as highly dramatic and fun.

Holy Motors’
‘Holy Motors’ on Blu-ray
Photo credit: Indomina Group

Lead actor Denis Levant, as Mr. Oscar, was criminally not considered as a Best Actor Oscar candidate (could his name be a further tweak?). He embodies all the roles, accomplishing them with a intensity that reflects the strange circumstances of the appointments. He actually best in the less showier moments, when talking to his driver Céline or sparring with his “daughter” after her first party. But as a physical actor, he is also able to twist his body into the contortions of an old beggar woman and one of his recurring characters, the “monster” named Merde (who first appeared in the excellent 2008 anthology film, “Toyko!”).

Eva Mendes plays the “beauty” in the Merde sequence, and skewers her own image by simply going with the flow. The sequence is also remarkable on its commentary regarding women, how the world wants to “see” them and cover them up at the same time. The Australian pop star Kylie Minogue gives Catherine Deneuve a run for her money with a dead-on parody of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” in the sequence that suggests that the folks who are fulfilling these appointments are in a cosmic weigh station, carrying out the karma for their sins. Or are they?

The extras go behind the scenes in “The Making of Holy Motors,” and has an insider interview with Kylie Minogue, but really the film makes its statement and then it is up to us to figure the rest of it out. It is thorough entertainment and wondrous brain candy, down to a conclusion that redefines “auto”-mation.

Experiencing the actors going through their appointments, like a stone skipping on a lake, is about as poignant an absolution for the life cycle as can be rendered. “Holy Motors” is wholly sacred, at least in the mirror image from the screen.

”Holy Motors” was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Indomina Group on February 26th. Featuring Denis Levant, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Michel Picolli and Édith Scob. Written and directed by Leos Carax. Not rated. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald,

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