Holy Motors

Holy Motors ★★★½

Leos Carax's Holy Motors is ultimately the kind of film that I admire more than I can say I actively appreciate on any level. Functioning primarily as a meditation on themes of identity and performance, Carax does some interesting work with his protagonist, played with utter dedication by Denis Lavant, but the character is used so distinctly as a symbol of these themes that he's never able to have any kind of a genuine soul. Holy Motors leaves plenty to reflect on, but there's a coldness to it that I felt shut me out and never allowed me to get fully invested in any aspect of it.

As Lavant's character goes through his day he transforms himself physically and mentally into many different forms, be it an assassin, a beggar, a flower-eating lunatic, or more and these transformations are interesting individually but they never felt like they equaled out to any kind of larger picture. After the first two or three of these sequences I understood what Carax was going for and then I spent the rest of the film waiting for him to evolve beyond that, but it never happened. One scene in particular, where one of Lavant's forms picks up his daughter from a party, stands out as being impressive in the way it explores that core theme but this happens relatively early on and I never felt like anything else in the film tapped into it as strongly as that one moment.

It feels like Carax wants to say some interesting things in regards to his themes, but for whatever reason stops halfway through and instead decides to have Kylie Minogue sing a song for five minutes. I was quite fond of several of the individual sequences, but I never cared enough about this character or was stimulated enough by the slightly thin thematic exploration for Holy Motors to move me on any lasting level. With how cold a response I had to the protagonist, none of the more emotionally aimed sequences were able to work for me, but the sensory-based ones such as the motion capture "appointment" were pretty breathtaking at times.

Carax spends his time saying some interesting things about the nature of the performer, how one can lose their identity as a result and how that can be the ultimate punishment for all man, but I felt that message came out relatively quick and he never probed much deeper. It was impressive for a while, but it never went anywhere for me, or maybe I'm just not intelligent enough for what he was striving to bring out of the viewer. Either way, Holy Motors is something that worked for me on a few levels but I ultimately found to have missed the landing. A great idea with a somewhat faulty execution.

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