Many people complain that there are no new ideas left for movies anymore. There is some truth to that considering we are given either sequels or remakes annually that hardly push any creative boundaries. However when you start to branch out into foreign markets you get introduced to innovative artists who can show you something new. “Holy Motors” fits right into that notion. Leo Carax, who first discovered controversy on a wide scale with “Pola X” writes and directs this truly bizarre and dreamlike film. It completely bucks tradional formulaic narratives in place of a mind-altering way to view film.
After a bizarre yet interesting prologue starting the film, we are introduced to the main character. Denis Lavant plays M. Oscar who at the outset is a seemingly well-to-do businessman with a family who travels around in a white limousine. He casually converses with his female driver, Celine (Edith Scob) as if they are longtime acquaintances. Oscar has a busy day full of appointments and we get the notion that this is an everyday occurrence for him. These appointments are given to him in sealed envelopes which take him all through Paris, from the inner city slums, to gothic cemeteries, to extravagant hotels. As the day goes on, he grows weary. The day turns into night and it all begins to wear on Oscar. He debates if he is cut out for this work anymore and he’s not sure he can continue to do it. There are moments throughout that make you believe he won’t make it through the night alive. (That last statement is both true and false).
I can safely say I have never seen a film with a structure like this before. “Holy Motors” originality is challenging. It takes a couple of scenes to actually know how it’s playing out but once that realization hits, it only becomes more fascinating. And more realizations keep coming throughout the second and third acts. There are scenes where you think they are breaking their own formula and the characters are conveying real emotions but then the scene moves on and you’re not so sure. That’s the beauty of it, is it part of the game or were they real emotions?
The acting is the key part of this film more so then in traditional films. Oscar loses himself completely into each role.. err..appointment, making them so unique both emotionally and physically, that the only resemblance remaining is Denis Lavants relatively distinct Cro-magnon like facial features. The first time you seen him become another character is startling and somewhat off-putting because it happens so quickly and authentically that you’re not sure what the hell is going on. I refuse to spoil films so there’s not much more to talk about but I will say this: repeat viewings are almost mandatory because when you watch it at least for a second time, the first several scenes take on a new meaning.
Indomina presents “Holy Motors” with a 1080p MPEG-2 codec in it’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Much of the action takes place at night or in dark locations so inevitably much of the detail is going to compromised naturally. Black crush is not an issues as the transfer handles the dark spaces well. Daytime scenes show nice detail with accurate color reproduction. There is nothing eye-popping or jaw dropping about the video. It’s as run of the mill as Hi-def can get. Not bad, but not great.
“Holy Motors” is given a lossy French Dolby Digital 5.1 track which is good but still lossy (sigh). The lack of a lossless soundtrack is a real shame as it could only add to such a unique and memorable cinematic experience. There is a terrific musical interlude involving a multitude of accordion players which sounds good as is but would be great to hear in it’s original lossless form. There is not a tremendous amount of directionality or dynamic sounds effects used but it still manages to uses all 5 speakers when necessary. On a side note, the UK version has a French DTS-HD MA and a LPCM 2.0 track. Personally, I don’t understand why a lossless track isn’t mandatory for Blu-ray. There is an option for English subtitles.
The most exciting extra is called “Drive In” which is a making of the film featurette. It is not a tell all sort of extra but it does give further insight into some of the themes and ideas as well as some nice interviews. There is an artistic flair to it giving it a cinematic feel. Next is a relatively lengthy (15 minutes) interview with Kylie Minogue. She candidly speaks about the confusing script and her excitement about the project. There are also two HD trailers, one domestic, one international.
“Holy Motors” is a unique cinematic experience that consistently delivers steady revelations as the film progresses. It is meticulously constructed to create a specific set of circumstances within a somewhat traditional plot. The acting is superb all around and the script is intelligently drawn up. Is there purpose beyond it being a cinematic exercise? Who knows. And that perhaps may turn some viewers off, however there is no denying that it will keep you thinking after it’s all over. The HD video and lossy audio won’t blow your socks off but it is adequate enough to make for pleasant viewing while absorbing in the story. With a small amount of interesting extras, this Blu-ray is highly recommended for people who complain there are no more original ideas anymore.