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Holy Motors Reviewed by Jonathan Romney

Absent from feature-making since 1999’s Pola X, French cinema’s mystery man, Leos Carax, makes up for lost time with the rambling, radically loopy Holy Motors. A metaphysical fugue in which a protean protagonist shape-shifts through shades of the human condition, Holy Motors will be acclaimed by some as a visionary, game-changing masterpiece and dismissed by others as a deriva- tive wallow in unfocused imagery. Carax’s comeback could best be described as an

uneven portmanteau film. This is an undoubtedly ambitious work, and it is difficult to imagine anyone who won’t be tickled by at least one episode. Yet as a whole, the film is scuppered by the transparence of its claims to philosophical resonance, while the nods to Cocteau, Bunuel, Franju et al make it feel like generic neo-surrealism rather than a truly orig- inal work. While it will divide audiences, the mar- ket’s dearth of eccentricity will make Holy Motors a desirable, if highly specialised, cult commodity. The director himself appears in a distinctly

Lynchian prelude as a man who finds a cinema behind the wall of his room. The narrative proper then begins with one Monsieur Oscar (Lavant) stepping into a white stretch limo to begin his day’s work. He is apparently a wealthy banker — but, as he is delivered to the first of a series of ‘meetings’, we realise Oscar is no one person in particular. Through the course of a day, he adopts various roles, including a beggar woman, an assassin and


Fr-Ger. 2012. 115mins Director/screenplay Leos Carax Production companies Pierre Grise Productions, Theo Films, Arte France Cinéma, Pandora Film, WDR/Arte International sales Wild Bunch, Producers Martine Marignac, Maurice Tinchant, Albert Prévost Cinematography Caroline Champetier, Yves Cape Production designer Florian Sanson Editor Nelly Quettier Main cast Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Elise Lhomeau, Michel Piccoli

his doppelganger victim, a motion-capture special- ist who performs a bravura dance under ultraviolet light, and Merde, the grotesque goblin creature seen in Carax’s contribution to 2008’s Tokyo!. As Oscar is driven round Paris by his mysterious

assistant, Céline (svelte doyenne Scob), we quickly twig the film’s premise: that each man in his time plays many parts. The film wears its philosophical intent increasingly heavily, its tendentiousness off- set by Lavant’s anarchic, Chaplinesque grace. Depending on the guise, he can be enigmatic; or, in the Merde episode, feral and abject. The latter is the

most grating, a sub-Fellini farce in which Merde kidnaps a model (Mendes) and carries her off to his subterranean lair. At times, however, the film achieves a hypnotic intensity: notably, the motion- capture sequence, which is mesmerising until Carax brings in the knowingly tacky CGI monsters. But for much of the time, Carax too visibly

strains at poetic resonance — and when he couches his themes in song, the effect is clumsy, as in a clos- ing-act ballad (by Carax and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon) sung by Kylie Minogue, playing another limo passenger.

Sightseers Reviewed by Mark Adams

Sightseers is a blissful bit of dark, funny and at times very bloody entertainment as a pair of cara- vanning killers head off on a road trip through the beautiful landscape of the UK’s Lake District and end up amassing as many bodies as visits to tourist sites. It is an often hilarious British comedy horror that should click with audiences with a taste for pitch-black comedy. Director Ben Wheatley is quietly building some-

thing of a cult following through his films Down Terrace and most recently Kill List (which opened at SXSW last year), and with Sightseers his reputa- tion as a quirky talent to watch is consolidated. The film, which has a special screening in Directors’ Fortnight, has been a buzz Cannes title and is likely to attract appreciative buyer interest. The deliciously dark Englishness of the film —

Nuts In May meets Badlands comes pretty close to summing it up — and the sheer oddness of its lead characters will naturally make Sightseers some- thing of an acquired taste, but it is filmed with such visual panache and sense of humour that cult sta- tus should be guaranteed. The script originated with the film’s lead actors

Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who spent several years refining the characters, first on stage and then as leads in a TV pilot. They play Midlands couple Chris and Tina, a genial pair who head off on a caravanning holiday, much to the annoyance

n 6 Screen International at Cannes May 24, 2012


UK. 2012. 90mins Director Ben Wheatley Production companies Rook Pictures, StudioCanal, Film4, BFI, Big Talk Pictures International sales Protagonist Pictures, www. Producers Nira Park, Claire Jones, Andy Starke Executive producers Matthew Justice, Jenny Borgars, Danny Perkins, Katherine Butler, Edgar Wright Screenplay Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Amy Jump Cinematography Laurie Rose Editors Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley, Robin Hill Production designer Jane Levick Music Jim Williams Main cast Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Jonathan Aris, Richard Glover, Monica Dolan, Richard Lumsden

of Tina’s mother who still blames her daughter for the accidental death of their beloved pooch Poppy. Tina has led a sheltered life, but is keen to

embrace Chris’s passion for UK tourist spots — such as the National Tramway Museum in Crich and the Keswick Pencil Museum — as well as enjoy an active sex life. She has even knitted crotchless underwear for the holiday. Things start well, but a litterbug and irritating

caravan neighbours drive Chris to distraction and the bodies start to fall. Once Tina gets to grips with Chris’s reactions to those who annoy him she embraces the concept, and before long the pair’s holiday becomes more of a murder spree. Wheatley’s dark sense of humour meshes per-

fectly with this rather eccentric story of cagoule- clad caravanning killers. Despite their murderous ways, Chris and Tina are always presented with real affection (as are their holiday plans) and their oddball romance (very Natural Born Killers with a low-key British suburban twist) regarded with tenderness as they face the ‘trials’ of their relation- ship. The killings do verge on the bloody at times, but

everything is balanced with a sly and often wicked sense of humour, while the soundtrack, production design and shrewd costume choices all enhance a perfectly formed and enjoyably dark film. The Eng- lish locations, though seen here as murder spots, are also striking.

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