These kind of movies get my goat and my goat was got a lot during these two tedious hours. Made by and for a certain clientele, the Palme d'Or-nominated Holy Motors is the worst kind of art film: art for art's sake.
A portmanteau, the nine shorts compose of strange goings on. An old crippled woman begs for money and love on a Parisian bridge; an actor goes through some stunts for a computer game; a lunatic leprechaun type escapes the tunnels to create a scene at a fashion shoot starring Eva Mendes; a man runs into former lover Kylie Minogue and they have a song-and-dance in a disused hotel. Linking the shorts together is Denis Lavant, who plays the lead in each segment. Lavant leaves his heavily guarded house and enters a stretch limo driven by his long-term assistant Celine (Scob). Celine presents him with a dossier of the day: he has nine 'appointments' to complete in twenty-four hours.
We're supposed to marvel at the bizarre nature of it all. Celebrate the nonsensical stories. Get caught up in the wackiness. We're supposed to gather afterwards in foyer and stroke our chins and discuss what it all means. Cinephiles will delight in the obscure references (French New Wave nods are hard to miss) and homages that crop up everywhere but you can go ahead and not care. In a film that's devoid of heart, this will be easy. Leos Carax, making his first film since 1999's Pola X, carries on like a smug first year art student with a budget, allowed to indulge his every whim.
Lavant is nothing but energetic and committed. Jumping back into the limo (or helped back in depending on what went down in the last segment), Lavant has to tear off the previous outing's make up in a reverse Welles/Falstaff transformation and prepare himself for the next 'job'. He can be fun and bouncy and in the segments that hint at a story – he drives his daughter home from a party, dancing with Kylie in that hotel – he can be warm but for the most part he's as cold and distant as the film as a whole.
Holy Motors has been described as a prayer for the death of cinema. Well, if it's a prayer for the death of this kind of cinema, I'm on my knees already, hands clasped.