Holy Motors – An Unrelenting Onslaught of Confusion

Holy Motors, a film that first debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, is one of the most esoteric films I’ve ever seen in my life.

An Adolescent Infatuation

I remember when I first watched this film. I was young then, 13 or 14, browsing through Netflix looking for something to whittle away my adolescence. I paused over the title “Holy Motors”. The trailer played, a man in a bright green suit with glassy, wild eyes ran through the crowded pathways of a cemetery. Striking fear into the hearts of those he passed, ravenously devouring bouquets he’d picked up from nearby graves. I was captivated. I clicked play and was introduced to the protagonist, a man named “Mr. Oscar”. His suit and limo conveyed the notion he was a rich man, his driver informing him of his appointments. His heavy sigh as he applied makeup to himself conveyed exhaustion in his line of work. He went from place to place, acting out scenes to no one in particular. He played mundane characters like a father picking his daughter up from a party, and bizarre ones, like the previously mentioned Monsieur Merde, the glassy-eyed beast.

Who Were We?

As the film progresses, it’s made clear that in this world, Mr. Oscar isn’t the only actor of his kind. In this world, there are numerous people acting out scenes, whether it be a bank robbery, a dying father speaking his last words to his daughter, or in a seemingly impromptu accordion orchestra. It isn’t until nearly the end of the film that we see something “Real” outside of the limousine. Oscar recognizes a woman in one of the white limousines responsible for transporting these actors and speaks with her. She ends their conversation with a song, it sounds meaningful. But the lyrics don’t say much at all. It’s an imitation, just like everything else in this world.

An Imitation of an Imitation

I could be wrong, I’m probably wrong. But in my mind, this film is about the entertainment industry and the way in which society interacts with it. It’s a mirror, staring into a mirror. The media we consume influences our thoughts, and our actions. And those thoughts and actions influence the media we consume. As we go about our daily lives, we have our own solitary moments between performances. A bartender performs for their customers, a man trying for a raise performs for his boss, a man and a woman perform for each other. We try desperately to convince those around us that we’re something special. Something unique. And occasionally, we fall for the act. But always we return to wondering whether any of it was real in the first place.

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