HOLY MOTORS (Leos Carax). 111 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (November 16). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
I am not entirely sure what happens in Holy Motors. I mean, I know what happens on the screen - a man called Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) gets into a white stretch limo and is chauffeured by a solicitous driver (Edith Scob) to a specific number of "appointments" in and around Paris.
These rendezvous require him to become a different person; he changes his appearance with makeup and prosthetics, responds to a new name and does things that Monsieur Oscar, a well-heeled family man, presumably would not do.
In one, he's a street beggar (and apparently female). In another, he's a dying man comforted by an estranged relative (Elise Lhomeau). In yet another, he's the green-suited babbling monster Lavant played in Carax's segment of Tokyo!, rampaging into a photo shoot and sort-of kidnapping an American supermodel (Eva Mendes). And it gets weirder after that.
This is Carax's first feature since 1999's Pola X; since then, he's worked primarily in short films. And Holy Motors does pulse with the sudden, surging energy of an omnibus film, as Monsieur Oscar drops into one new scenario after another, assuming new personalities.
There are hints that Oscar isn't the only one performing, and vague conversations about cameras we never see. The prologue and epilogue suggest a much larger, far more complicated relationship to cinema that Carax never explores, but I don't think he ever intended to. He just wants us to get in, take the ride and be dazzled by what he has to show us.