Every year, Cannes cedes one of its Hollywood–monopolized screens for a patriotic celebration of insanity. Making its way stateside on a wave of applause is Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors,” the token wacky French film of this year’s festival circuit.
A man spends the day being driven through Paris in a white limousine fulfilling a series of “appointments”, each requiring an elaborate disguise and the adoption of a new persona. He’s at turns an elderly beggar woman, a motion–capture artist, and a Quasimodo–esque sewer dweller.
It’s an enjoyable romp — standouts include musical numbers featuring a large troupe inside a moody Cathedral, and Kylie Minogue milling through an abandoned department store. There’s a persistent threat of the absurdity defeating itself, and the self–parody of cinema turning into an unintended one aimed at the French. But Carax staves off self–importance with a “plot” that’s a curveball. Grandiose ideas are obscured in the dialogue of talking cars, or a family of chimps.
It’s an abrasive picture that’s uncompromising and at times, downright gruesome. But it’s also an unforgettable shred of cinematic history and culture, as delightful as it is perplexing.