joemarsh’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was probably my most anticipated film of this year, along with Berberian Sound Studio; I had heard many great things, including that it is extremely original and that the plot is very difficult to summarise, and is secondary to the other elements of the film, both elements which are sure to draw me in to view any movie. Watching it, it met all of my expectations, and provided so much beyond them.
Holy Motors is about the slow painful death of the film industry, and is an active attempt to counteract this demise by providing a film which is fantastical and completely out of the ordinary. One of the main issues with film today is predictability; with such a swathe of genre film remakes and sequels (just look at the horror movies that are in the cinema at the time of this review), and middlebrow, middle of the road talking films starring Brad Pitt or, especially, George Clooney, Carax seems to point out both the critically lauded and commercially successful aspects of the film industry and find them extremely lacking. However, for Carax, Denis Lavant, and arguably for the kind of person who would go and see this flick, cinema is life; it is not just the films we watch that are staid and dull but modern life also, our lives which are intertwined with our dreams and our chosen form of entertainment. Lavant's M. Oscar drifts in and out of his various "lives" just as we drift in and out of the various aspects of life that fail to sufficiently hold our interest; movies, jobs, relationships etc. As one of the people I saw this film with pointed out, the tableaux of the film both criticises and panders to our fading attention spans.
There are an almost inexhaustible number of elements to this film that make it worth watching. It has the ability to sadden, amuse, and perhaps rarest of all, shock. It has such a depth and wealth of surrealist imagery that you will literally spend hours figuring out what was going on. For the extreme movie buffs it is littered with references to Western cinema (I admit I only pick up on one or two of these, although I was aware they were probably present; comparing with my friends after the film we were able to compile what we had noticed, but it would be great to watch it a couple more times). It is visually stunning, and is probably the only film I have ever seen where I was shivering with anticipation at the beginning of the film just because the typography used for the title was so fantastic.
If you care about cinema, if you are willing to let yourself go a little bit and not fret over your inability to completely understand what is happening, please go and see this film.