In a disused department store, filled with the decaying bodies of disassembled mannequins, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) and former love, Eva (Kylie Minogue) talk of lives that could have been. This is Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, a joyfully disorientating film about living multiple lives in the space of one day.
Oscar is a man of seemingly infinite means who makes it his business to live the lives of others. In the space of 9 different “appointments” throughout his day we see him take on guises as varied and as bizarre as a motion capture artist, an assassin and a father to an angst-ridden teenage girl. Between jobs, Oscar spends his time secluded in a giant white limousine with only his doting assistant, Céline (Édith Scob) for company. Much like in Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) the life of the man trapped in the limousine is one of intense loneliness. Oscar spends all of his time pretending to be other people so when it becomes time to be himself, he is lost.
To say that this film tells a story would be misleading – there’s very little actual plot to speak of. The film joyfully drifts from scene to scene with little regard for narrative structure. Instead it’s a film that showcases the wonderful emotional powers that cinema holds. Before we are introduced to Oscar, Leos Carax himself is shown pushing down the wall to an apartment which leads to an audience in front of a cinema screen. This, along with many clips of what look like Murbridge-style, early cinematic experiments and the previously mentioned motion capture scene, gives the feeling that this film is spanning the whole of film history. The whole effect is one that makes you immensely proud to be a lover of cinema.