Holy Motors: DVD and Blu-ray

Sunday, 27 January 2013 18:24
Posted in Blu-Ray
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Holy Motors out on DVD and Blu-rayFrench movie “Holy Motors” got a ton of very positive publicity when it was released last year, but none of the reviews I read managed to explain what it is about. Now, having seen it, I am barely any closer to understanding it! Director Leos Carax is a cult figure, partly because his works are of the kind that radically divide audiences, and also because he has only made a handful of films in a career spanning thirty years.

Denis Lavant (“Les Amants du Pont-Neuf”) stars as the mysterious Mr. Oscar, a battered and strange-looking man who, from dawn until deep into the night is ferried about in a luxurious, white stretch-limousine from one appointment to the next. His chauffeur is an elegant, elderly lady called Céline. The nature of these assignments can literally be anything, and require Oscar to impersonate or act as any character under the sun.

Onboard his limo he has a portable dressing room, complete with light-bulb studded mirror, wig stands, drawers of prosthetics, make-up and costumes. On his way from one job to another he reads through a dossier explaining his next role and the situation awaiting him, and prepares himself accordingly.

The film seems to cover a whole gamut of genres, from drama, horror, thriller, romance, fantasy and even a musical. Mr. Oscar’s duties range from the mundane such as ferrying ‘his daughter’ home from a party, the deadly, such as being tasked with murdering somebody, to the surreal where he becomes a motion capture artist battling an unseen foe.

The movie is tremendously exciting and gripping because the audience never knows what Oscar’s next appointment will entail, and Levant’s acting is so effective and beguiling that you frequently start to forget that each part is played by the same man, especially when he has transformed his face, hair, body shape and movement to become somebody new.

Like the TV series Lost, each time the film provides us with answers as to what is going on, it tends to only lead to more questions. It is not undone by this, however, as you soon come to realise that you are supposed to sit back and let the whole journey sweep over you, gleaning what personal meaning from it that you can. The movies by David Lynch and David Cronenberg are probably the closest parallel I can think of.

Edith Scob (“Brotherhood of the Wolf”, “Vidocq”) is excellent as Céline, professional and yet genuinely concerned about Oscar’s wellbeing. One gets the impression that they have worked together for a very long time. Kylie makes an appearance fairly late in the film and leaves a lasting impression. This is definitely not the glittering, bubbly starlet she normally portrays.

Carax’s movie looks as fantastic as it plays, depicting Paris in a stunning light, both by day and night, with the city lights dancing across the limo’s pristine chassis. The Blu-ray version reviewed is not the sharpest high-def release I have seen but the picture is vibrant and detailed. The soundtrack is as splendid as it is strange, with the best example being an unexpected interval featuring a spellbinding accordion-band cover of “Let My Baby Ride”, originally by R L Burnside. Seeing Mr. Oscar and a growing mass of musician followers sweep through a candle-lit cathedral is something else!

To sum up, this is a weird, wonderful, moving and bemusing film, like a portmanteau art-house flick that is at once accessible and inaccessible and definitely begging to be watched many, many times to glean new details and adjust one’s comprehension of what it might all be about.

At first, the special features sound slight: a trailer, some deleted scenes and an ‘in conversation’ piece with Leos Carax at a film festival. However, the latter is lengthy and stimulating on a mental level. It seems that Carax is a bit shy of publicity but evidently has a lot of time to think about life and cinema, as his responses to questions are philosophical and highly intellectual. I struggled to understand half of his answers but I found him fascinating none-the-less. How many more films he is likely to make I could not say, as he chain-smokes and coughs his way through the Q&A session like cigarettes are going out of fashion!

“Holy Motors” (2012) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Artificial Eye. The main feature has a running time of 115 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £15.99 on DVD and £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com


Last modified on Sunday, 27 January 2013 18:28

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