Denis Lavant gives an extraordinary shape-shifting performance in 'Holy Motors'

Lavant wows as a man who impersonates 11 different people in the course of a day.

By , Film critic

  • close
    Eva Mendes stars in 'Holy Motors.'
    View Caption

The anarchic French director Leos Carax last directed a film 13 years ago, “Pola X,” which in a roundabout way derived from Herman Melville’s novel “Pierre.” I suspect his new film, “Holy Motors,” is also tinged with Melville – in this case his novel “The Confidence-Man.”

“Holy Motors” is about Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant, in an extraordinary, shape-shifty performance), who impersonates 11 different personas in the course of the same day. His limo driver (Edith Scob) chauffeurs him on a series of “appointments” in which he dresses up as an old beggar woman, a madman in a street market, an assassin, and so on. The limo is  equipped with a full dressing room of costumes and props and his charades, which range from roisterous to supremely creepy, last far into the night.

This is the kind of it-can-mean-whatever-you-want-it-to-mean art film that I usually run from, but Carax is such a prodigiously gifted mesmerist that, if you give way, you’re likely to be enfolded in the film’s phantasmagoria. It’s a movie about, among things, movies, but it expresses a wondrousness and dread that make it far more than a cinéaste’s exercise. It’s also much better than that other back-of-the-limo movie this year, David Cronenberg’s stultifying “Cosmopolis.” Grade: B+ (Unrated.)

Share this story:
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...