Holy Motors

A relentlessly loony film that defies a clear logical interpretation, Holy Motors is the latest brainchild of beloved – and not very prolific – French madman Leos Carax. (It's only his second full-length feature since his landmark 1991 romance Lovers on the Bridge.)

The setup is this: a mysterious "actor" (Carax regular Denis Lavant) cruises around Paris over the course of one day, with nine "appointments" to fulfill. Each appointment requires the man to emerge from his limousine in extravagant makeup, and enact some sort of scene with other people. What is "reality" and what is "staged" is an ever-shifting question, and I think Carax might be suggesting that we are all, effectively, actors in other people's lives, there to provide the action and emotion that give life meaning.

Or I might be totally wrong. The film could very well be about the love of film itself; there are numerous references to other work, including Carax's own fantastic installment in the omnibus film Tokyo! and Georges Franju's 1960 chiller Eyes Without a Face. (Lavant's chauffeur is played by the latter film's Edith Scob.) It's impossible to read Leos Carax's mind, so I can't say what he's really aiming at. But in any event, Holy Motors is like nothing else out there.

I hesitate to call this film "fun", because it's actually got a lot of slow, somber scenes, and it doesn't feel like Carax is totally putting us on, even if those scenes have their own loopy non-reality. But seeing the film now is like seeing the best work of Fellini, Buñuel, or Lynch when they were just being released into theaters. Carax may not have the reputation of those cinematic giants, perhaps because of his limited output, but his work is every bit as visionary. And any film that puts Eva Mendes in a burqa and has Kylie Minogue jumping off a building is worth investigating.