Synopsis by Nathan Southern
This freewheeling surrealist outing from France attempts to dispense almost completely with conventional narrative structure; instead, it offers a series of absurdist sketches with scarcely any discernible connection between them. The film opens on a character played by director Leos Carax known only as "Le Dormeur." After waking up one morning, he somehow locates and opens a secret door in his apartment, and wanders into a packed movie house where an audience watches King Vidor's classic The Crowd and a giant dog wanders up and down the aisles. Meanwhile, Oscar (Denis Lavant) rides to work in a white limousine driven by his close friend and associate Céline (Edith Scob); Oscar's job, it seems, involves using makeup, elaborate costumes, and props to carry out a number of complex and unusual scenarios. Of these, one has the actor performing an action sequence and simulated sex with an actress on a soundstage while he's filmed by an off-camera director. The second sequence puts him in a sewer with Monsieur Merde, a character who first appeared in Carax's segment in the omnibus picture Tokyo!; here, Merde falls in love with a beautiful model (Eva Mendes) who accompanies him on a jaunt through a cemetery. Subsequent episodes cast Oscar in a deathbed melodrama, a gangster film, a musical alongside pop star Kylie Minogue, and much more. At one point in the picture, Carax implies that Oscar may be acting these scenes out for hidden cameras, which are webcasting the episodes for Internet surfers. An intriguing footnote: Movie buffs may experience some déjà vu while watching Scob in this film, as she's deliberately used to invoke her characterization from Georges Franju's 1960 horror classic Eyes without a Face, and at one point, even wears a facial mask similar to the one she donned in that picture. Holy Motors marked Carax's first feature since the 1999 Pola X.