Has madcap visionary Leos Carax found in Holy Motors his va-va-voom or is he on a long ride to nowhere? It's quite a puzzler. The film is a fractured dream of an odyssey through Paris, undertaken in a white stretch limo a la Cronenberg's recent Cosmopolis.
Denis Lavant plays M. Oscar, a protean passenger who uses his back seat as a dressing-room of disguises, playing businessman, beggar, assassin, victim, family man, old woman – it's like Mr Benn back there. In the most antic and violent sequence, he's an orally-fixated leprechaun who kidnaps a glamour model (Eva Mendes) and carries her off to his lair, a twanging erection in full view.
Ferrying M. Oscar about the place is his chauffeur, a chic older lady named Celine (Edith Scob), the steady centre of this fast-dissolving fugue. There is a sense that Carax is simply taking us where his fancy leads him; these are vignettes rather than linked chapters, their only connection the strange, satyr-like presence of Lavant in his various personas.
What does it all mean? Damned if I know, though its conjuring of different identities could be an allusion to past lives, or to the chaos of a schizoid personality, shattering into pieces. It's not a film so much as a spell, and however enigmatic or opaque it becomes you feel it working – worming – its way into your head.