Holy Motors (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2013 by  

“Holy Motors” is breath of fresh air, something unique and different when compared to today’s modern cinema and possibly a film that many consider as filmmaker Leos Carax’ Magnum Opus.  Entertaining, complex and wonderful!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Wild Bunch. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Holy Motors


DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Indomina

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: February 26, 2013

Directed by Leos Carax

Written by Leos Carax

Produced by Martine Marignac, Albert Prevost, Maurice Tinchant

Co-Produced: Remi Burah

Cinematography by Caroline Champetier

Edited by Nelly Quettier

Casting by Elsa Pharaon

Production Design by Florian Sanson

Art Direction by Emmanuelle Cuillery

Costume Design by Anais Romand


Denis Lavant as M. Oscar / Le banquier / La mendiante / L’OS de Motion-Capture / M. Merde / Le père / L’accordéoniste / Le tueur / Le tué / Le mourant / L’homme au foyer

Edith Scob as Celine

Eva Mendes as Kay M

Kylie Mingoue as Eva Grace (Jean)

Elise Lhorneau as Lea (Elise)

Jeanne Disson as Angele

Michel Piccoli as L’homme à la tache de vin

Leos Carax as Le dormeur / Voix Limousine (as LC)

One of the most acclaimed and beloved films of the year, HOLY MOTORS is a ravishing fever dream of becoming, unraveling and starting all over again that also stars  Eva Mendes (Ghost Rider, Hitch), Kylie Minogue (Moulin Rouge!, Jack and Diane), Edith Scob (A Butterfly Kiss, Summer Hours), Elise Lhomeau (Young Girls in Black), Michel Piccoli (Belle De Jour) and Jeanne Disson (Tomboy).  Blu-ray bonus features include the behind-the-scenes featurette “Drive In – The Making of Holy Motors” and an “Interview with Kylie Minogue.”

For cineaste, many are calling “Holy Motors”, directed by Leos Carax (“The Lovers on the Bridge”, “Mauvais sang”, “Boy Meets Girl”) as a true masterpiece!

Cahiers du Cinema voted the “Holy Motors” as the #1 film of 2012.

Richard Brody of “The New Yorker” praised the film writing, “These images and sounds that reveal the mind in matter and the soul in bodies suggest Carax’s ultimate definition of the cinema, and it’s one of the best and grandest that a movie has ever offered.”

For French cinema, as names such as Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Andre Bazin, Jacques Rivette (to name a few) are highly regarded for their part in cinema that was know as the “French New Wave”, Leos Carax is one who was influenced by it, especially the works of Godard.

And similar to Godard who worked with Anna Karina, Jean-Paul Belmondo or Jean-Pierre Leaud, Carax would work with Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant.

While his last film was back in 1999 with “Pola X” and taking part in a segment for the film “Tokyo!” in 2008, it was the latter in which he worked against with Denis Lavant, that Leos wanted to create a film written specifically with Lavant in mind.  It took five years for Leos to find funding for the film and sure enough was able to get funding from companies in France and Germany.

And now this critically acclaimed film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Indomina in Feb. 2013.

I will first say that describing this film doesn’t do any justice. “Holy Motors” is a film that must be experienced and watched against due to its complexity and the fact that cineaste may find references or find something profound with each segment.  And each segment features actor Denis Lavant in multiple roles.

But the film begins with a character known as “Le Dormeur” who awakens and finds a secret door in his apartment where he ends up in a theater where people are watching King Vidor’s “The Crowd” and surreal imagery begins with a young child and a very large dog walks around the aisle.

We are then introduced to Oscar, a man who rides in a white limousine driven by Celine (portrayed by Edith Scob).  While she drives him to multiple appointments, Oscar’s job involves wearing makeup and costumes and performing various scenarios, not on stage or for the big screen but what appears to be reality (or is it?).

One scene involves Oscar in character wearing a motion capture suit and meeting up with a woman also wearing a motion capture suit and the two engaging in a simulated sex scene while motion capture is recording their movements.  We watch as Oscar then dresses up as the sewer troll Monsieur Merde (which was originally featured in the film “Tokyo!”).

During a model photoshoot with model Kay M (portrayed by Eva Mendes), he captures her and brings her down to his cave/sewer where he begins eating the contents in her purse and her hair.  But he then begins to modify her dress towards his own sense of fashion.

Another sequence includes Oscar playing a father who picks up his daughter from a party, to be told of how much fun she was having until he catches her in a lie.  And he finds out in reality, no guys want to party with her and he begins to question why she isn’t attracting any guys.

Another sequences features Oscar as a man who murders another man.  But when he shaves the man’s beard, the man turns out to look exactly like the person who is responsible for the murder.

Another sequence involves meeting up with an old flame, Eva (portrayed by Kylie Minogue) and the two going out to talk to each other and reminisce of the past.

We see many more appointments as Oscar takes part in a man who is dying, a musical, a gangster and many more.


“Holy Motors” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and to bring costs down, despite not being known to work with digital film (and even a character mentioning big film cameras being missed), shot with an Red Epic camera, the cinematography by Caroline Champetier (“Tokyo!”, “Of Gods and Men”, “Ponette”) is gorgeous!  The film is well-contrast and because every sequence is difference, scenes such as the motion capture scene to scenes visiting various areas in France is quite beautiful to see.  The film is well-contrast and I didn’t detect an aliasing, banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.


“Holy Motors” is presented in French Dolby Digital 5.1 and French stereo.  I was a bit surprised as the Artificial Eye release features a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, but I went to confirm on my receiver to see if its DTS-HD MA 5.1 but it shows up as Dolby digital 5.1.  For the most part, the 5.1 soundtrack does offer much more dynamic range than the stereo track.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and I detected no pops or hiss during my viewing of the film.

Subtitles are in English.


“Holy Motors” come with the following special features:

  • Drive In: Making of Holy Motors – (47:28) A featurette on the behind-the-scenes making of “Holy Motors”.
  • Kylie Minogue – (13:22) Kylie Minogue is interviewed on how she was cast for the film and her impressions of “Holy Motors”.
  • Trailer – Featuring two trailers (2:32) and (1:51).

“Holy Motors” is what I would call profound cinema.

Cinema intended to make one think, complex to make one re-watch and entertaining because of how audacious and surprising the film is.

Is the film intended to be a message from filmmaker Leos Carax or is this a tribute to cinema and each segment/appointment featured in the film is a tribute to other cinema?  Was the character of Celine wearing a mask as homage to Georges Franju’s 1960 film “Les yeux sans visage” (Eyes without a Face)?  Was Kylie Minogue’s Eva Grace modeled after actress Jean Seberg, best known for starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film “A bout de souffle” (Breathless)?  Was the musical inspired from “The Umbrella’s of Cherbourg”?  Or what about the scene with chimps was that a homage to the Charlotte Rampling film, “Max Mon Amour”?

We see references to Carax’ previous work such as the motion capture sequence that is reminiscent to a scene in “Mauvais Sang”, a limo scene reminiscent of a scene from “Boy Meets Girl”, the beggar from “Les amants du Pont-Neuf” (The Lovers on the Bridge) and we also see the hideous Monsieur Merde of “Tokyo!” making his appearance.

I watched “Holy Motors” and my feeling was that Leos Carax, in going digital for this film, it was a homage but also like a somber goodbye to cinema of the past.  I have no question in my mind that the film contains imagery and situations and possibly a form of communication from Carax of how he feels about society, about himself, about cinema.

But that is what I see in this amazing film.  Segments that provide something new, unique and you can’t help but wanting to watch it again and again to see what you got out of it.

It’s quite amazing of how he constructed a character that is an actor that takes his acting not on stage or movies but to actual settings in Paris.  There is no need to ask if this segment was real or if it was imaginary, the point of the film is to make one think, to make one entertained and to escape the banalities of modern cinema.  Being creative, imaginative and a hint of an Elegiac.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic but I do question the choice of going Dolby Digital 5.1 instead of DTS-HD MA like the European Artificial Eye release.  But with that being said, both are different in terms of special features with thie Indomina release featuring a making of and an interview with Kylie Minogue.

Overall, “Holy Motors” is breath of fresh air, something unique and different when compared to today’s modern cinema and possibly a film that many consider as filmmaker Leos Carax’ Magnum Opus.  Entertaining, complex and wonderful!


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