Leos Carax's Holy Motors is breathtaking...and impossible to classify

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Unclassifiable, expansive, and breathtaking, Holy Motors, the first feature-length film from Leos Carax since 1999, stars Denis Lavant, the simian, sinewy actor who played the lead in Carax's first three movies, as a character named Oscar who inhabits nearly a dozen different personas over the course of a day. Steered through the streets of Paris in a white stretch limo by chauffeur Céline (Edith Scob), Oscar consults a dossier for the particulars of his next "appointment." These scenarios require him to play, among others, a homeless old woman shaking a tin cup, a performer bending and contorting for a motion-capture sex scene, and a feral leprechaun (a reprise of Lavant's character in the 2008 omnibus film Tokyo!) terrorizing a fashion shoot, absconding with a top model (Eva Mendes) in whose lap he is soon cradled, stark naked and sporting a ramrod erection. Oscar pursues this exhausting work for "the beauty of the act," as he explains to a mysterious exec (Michel Piccoli). "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," the suit responds — to which Oscar asks, "And what if there's no more beholder?" As Oscar's night begins to wind down, he sees Jean (Kylie Minogue, transcendent), a woman he once loved dearly who is engaged in the same kind of shape-shifting work as he is. Jean breaks into song: "Who were we/When we were/Who we were/Back then?" Co-written by Carax, the lyrics circle back to an ever-present past; the linguistic construction of the song's opening lines seems, like Oscar himself, to be in constant flux, always slipping just out of our grasp. If there's no more beholder, how will we know what we were?

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.