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Holy Motors

Directed by Leos Carax

France, 2012

Cornerhouse, 29 September 2012

Holy Motors

If you like to read Daniil Kharms then you’re likely to want to watch this film.

It is about life as theatre, or cinema: an actor travels about Paris in one of those white stretch limos, assuming various roles and identities.  He becomes an immigrant woman begging on the street, a hit man who kills his double, a father disappointed by his daughter’s gaucheness…  Puzzling, that’s an apt summation, and my advice would be to just go along for the ride.

For, let me tell you, Denis Lavant’s performance is truly phenomenal and Eva Mendes in a burka is also wondrous in her own way.  When Lavant’s chauffeur dons the mask she (for the chauffeur is played by the actress Edith Scob) wore in Eyes Without a Face, yes it is a homage to that marvellous film, yet you cannot help relating it as well to Eva Mendes’ turn and the current Gallic panic over the wearing of the burka in public.  They, the citizens of the French Republic, are rather jittery about the burka at the minute.

To be frank, this film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  Many will baulk at the lack of a clear and simple narrative.  My own view is that filmmakers who’re as audacious as Leos Carax should be cherished.  His films are rare and resplendent spectacles.