Denis Lavant gives an extraordinary shape-shifting performance in 'Holy Motors'
Lavant wows as a man who impersonates 11 different people in the course of a day.
The anarchic French director Leos Carax last directed a film 13 years ago, â€śPola X,â€ť which in a roundabout way derived from Herman Melvilleâ€™s novel â€śPierre.â€ť I suspect his new film, â€śHoly Motors,â€ť is also tinged with Melville â€“ in this case his novel â€śThe Confidence-Man.â€ť
â€śHoly Motorsâ€ť is about Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant, in an extraordinary, shape-shifty performance), who impersonates 11 different personas in the course of the same day. His limo driver (Edith Scob) chauffeurs him on a series of â€śappointmentsâ€ť in which he dresses up as an old beggar woman, a madman in a street market, an assassin, and so on. The limo isÂ equipped with a full dressing room of costumes and props and his charades, which range from roisterous to supremely creepy, last far into the night.
This is the kind of it-can-mean-whatever-you-want-it-to-mean art film that I usually run from, but Carax is such a prodigiously gifted mesmerist that, if you give way, youâ€™re likely to be enfolded in the filmâ€™s phantasmagoria. Itâ€™s a movie about, among things, movies, but it expresses a wondrousness and dread that make it far more than a cinĂ©asteâ€™s exercise. Itâ€™s also much better than that other back-of-the-limo movie this year, David Cronenbergâ€™s stultifying â€śCosmopolis.â€ť Grade: B+ (Unrated.)