It’s often very funny, sometimes sad, frequently surreal, occasionally moving and never boring. Beyond that, part of the pleasure of this massively entertaining art movie is not knowing what persona Lavant is going to assume next, or what’s going to happen. Reviewers, particularly those who think the film is silly, are almost certainly going to give a lot of these surprises away and quite frankly, you’ll be better off not knowing. But here are some reasons why you might want to see it.
1) The very strange prelude, featuring Léos Carax himself and some Lynchian sound effects.
2) Denis Lavant giving a multi-faceted, full-frontal, tour de force performance. He also has the most extraordinary body, with lots of muscle, and I don’t think he had a stunt double for the athletic bits. He looks rough, and quite often dirty, but that’s part of his appeal, and he smokes a cigarette like no-one else. I think I’m a little bit in love with him, but if I ever met him in real life I’d be terrified.
3) Edith Scob, quite possibly the most beautiful septuagenarian on the planet. You might have seen her in Eyes without a Face (to which there’s a nice little nod in Holy Motors), Judex, Venus Beauté (institut), Le Pacte des loups, L’heure d’été or any number of other French films, but she has never looked lovelier.
4) The goddess-like qualities of Eva Mendes. She doesn’t get much dialogue. But she doesn’t need it.
5) Kylie Minogue in a raincoat, speaking pretty good French and coming across as a blend of Jean Seberg and Cécile de France. And singing a sad song.
6) Paris by night.
7) The writing on the gravestones in Père Lachaise.
8) The weirdest sex scene ever (with the possible exception of the one in Bruno Dumont’s Hors Satan).
9) The accordions. (This is a link to the soundtrack on YouTube, but the still photo is a bit of a giveaway.)
10) The return of “Merde”, the sewer-dwelling grotesque (with the Godzilla theme tune!) from Carax’s segment of Tokyo!
11) La Samaritaine, the beautiful Paris department store (on the Rue de Rivoli) which in 2005 was abruptly closed, officially because the building did not meet “safety codes”, though there were rumours that its owners simply decided it wasn’t making enough money. It plays a key role in one segment of the film.
12) The motion capture.
There. That’s all I’m going to tell you. But here’s the trailer.