A lit­tle bit of ‘huh?’ and a whole lot of ‘wow!’

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

BE­FIT­TING a movie with 10 or 11 dif­fer­ent seg­ments, di­rec­tor Léos Carax’s Holy Mo­tors is dif­fer­ent things. It is about movies, act­ing, tech­nol­ogy, work and fam­ily. Its tone like­wise shifts like a fluid kalei­do­scopic im­age through ab­sur­dist satire, domestic drama, tragic mu­si­cal, fever dream and nos­tal­gic reverie.

It’s not a typ­i­cal night out at the movies, but it has sub­stan­tial plea­sures if you love a David Lynchian enigma.

In its pre­lude, Carax ap­pears like a Kafka hero, awak­en­ing to find a door in his apart­ment that leads into the hid­den bal­cony of a movie the­atre.

And thus, the movie be­gins with a late-mid­dle-aged busi­ness­man Mon­sieur Os­car (chameleon-like ac­tor De­nis La­vant) de­part­ing for work in a stretch limo pi­loted by the ele­gant, el­derly chauf­feur Ce­line (the beau­ti­ful Edith Scob, who, yes, will pay homage to her role in the land­mark 1960 hor­ror film Eyes With­out a Face).

The limou­sine serves as a dress­ing room where Mon­sieur Os­car promptly re­moves his Mon­sieur Os­car dis­guise. He con­sults a dossier de­tail­ing a ser- Star­ring De­nis La­vant and Edith Scob Cine­math­eque 14A 111 min­utes

out of five ies of ap­point­ments he is obliged to keep. For one, he dons the dis­guise of a crip­pled, bent old lady who begs on the street. In an­other, he dresses in a mo­tion-cap­ture suit to stroll into a fac­tory (let’s call that a dig at the con­tem­po­rary movie stu­dio), where he will en­gage in weird vir­tual love­mak­ing with a sim­i­larly clad con­tor­tion­ist.

Open­ing a makeup cup­board to re­veal an elab­o­rate pros­thetic dis­guise, Os­car ut­ters the word “merde.” That’s ac­tu­ally the name of his next role, Mon­sieur Merde, a gib­ber­ish-yelling, flower-chomp­ing street loon who in­vades a fash­ion photo shoot in the Père Lachaise ceme­tery and kid­naps a weirdly pas­sive fash­ion model (Eva Men­des), car­ry­ing her into his sub­ter­ranean hide­out. There, he re­fash­ions her silk dress into a burka.

(This char­ac­ter ap­peared in Carax’s seg­ment of the 2008 an­thol­ogy film Tokyo as a prim­i­tive id mon­ster who ter­ror­izes the city like a diminu­tive Godzilla.)

And so it goes. Os­car dresses as a tough assassin and mur­ders a looka­like. He plays the part of a seedy dad, who picks up his teenage daugh­ter at a party and scolds her for telling a lie.

Of course, when it comes to the man we know as Mon­sieur Os­car, his whole stock in trade is the lie, an ac­tiv­ity he seems to prac­tise with and with­out the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the peo­ple he en­coun­ters. (Among them is, of all peo­ple, Kylie Minogue. The dance-pop diva of­fers a sur­pris­ing melan­choly turn as one of Os­car’s part­ners in elab­o­rate de­cep­tion.)

If some parts are more in­ex­pli­ca­ble than oth­ers, Holy Mo­tors re­mains a re­ward­ing if not en­tirely solv­able puz­zle.

Films like this are of­ten ac­cused of be­ing self-in­dul­gent and that’s un­der­stand­able. But if it de­liv­ers beauty, laugh­ter, and a pretty stag­ger­ing per­for­mance (from La­vant), this is the film to re­mind you that some­times self-in­dul­gence can be a good thing.


A rose by any other name: De­nis La­vant tears throught the streets of Paris in his ‘Mon­sieur Merde’ per­sona.

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