The deepest journey into the subconscious since Inland Empire, the strangest exploration of identity since Being John Malkovich, and likely the second most powerful examination of death this year (after Amour), Holy Motors is the unfettered work of an artist who refuses to compromise. Instead, Leos Carax combines film noir, musical, and science fiction with an stunning visual palate to create a surrealist work of daring originality.
Like Mulholland Dr. transported to Paris, Holy Motors employs the strongest aspects of Buñuel, Tarkovsky, Malick, Lynch, and Kaufman, among others, en route to a heartbreaking and fully imaginative finale. It confounds your expectations, then makes them irrelevant.
Holy Motors is drunk with the love of movies. Many of its short sequences are direct parallels with classic films such as A Man and a Woman. Edith Scob’s character even puts on a mask at the end of the day/film, with a knowing wink to the French horror classic Eyes Without a Face.
Denis Lavant gives an astonishing performance as 11 different characters, vanishing into roles as beggar, father, assassin, lover, uncle, and madman. Whether confronting his daughter’s fears, gyrating in an electronic studio, eating flowers/Eva Mendes’ hair, playing dead/the accordion, or basking in the song of a long-lost partner, Lavant carries the film on his able shoulders, and the results are beyond impressive.
Baffling, shocking, haunting, darkly amusing, and completely unpredictable, Holy Motors is a stimulating, experimental head rush and a kaleidoscopic celebration of what cinema have to offer. Not only the best film of the year so far (and the only other contender will be the Palme d’Or winner from Europe’s best director), but the kind of film that only comes around every few years – it is unforgettable.