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Holy Motors? More like holy shit! What an unreal cinematic experience this was. Leos Carax‘s fever dream bristles with the absurd, the disgusting, and the completely unhinged making David Lynch on acid seem tame enough to babysit your 4-year old. Undoubtedly one of the strangest films I’ve seen to date, and I caught The Wayward Cloud in the theater…

The film’s opening sequence is as bizarre as any you’ll see and a harbinger of things to come.  A man (played by director Carax himself) lays in bed. Something rouses him and he gets out of bed. The soundtrack makes it seem like he’s on a cruise ship or other large boat – gulls squawking, sound of ropes tightening and untightening, waves licking the ship’s sides. However, when he walks around the room and looks out the window, it’s obvious that he isn’t – the view overlooks an airport, although none of the diagetic sound would give us a clue otherwise. He walks around the perimeter of the room until he comes to a wall covered in tree wallpaper.

Searching for the door.

He carefully inspects the wall as if searching for something which he knows to be there. Upon finding a keyhole, he tears at the paper uncovering the lock. At this point, a large key has grown from the middle finger on his right hand, which fortunately fits said lock. When he opens the door, the passageway leads into a movie theater where all of the patrons are either asleep or dead. As the camera tracks down the aisle, it follows a gigantic mastiff as he sidles down towards the screen. Now, I’m no Freud or anything, so I looked up what this might mean in a dream dictionary. All I got was that mastiffs symbolize loyalty and fidelity as well as a strong, powerful, but unknown, friend. So, I guess this film is about God then? Maybe?

And that’s just the opening scene.

Monsieur Merde, munching on some tasty grave flowers in pursuit of something…pretty.

The rest is equally confounding as we follow Monsieur Oscar played by Carax regular Denis Lavant in an incredibly strong, awards-worthy performance. Lavant straddles the line between utter insanity as he embodies a creepy version of an insane leprechaun/troll (a role reprised from the omnibus film, Tokyo!) and sweet tenderness as he plays a dying old man being attended to by his daughter. He is shuttled around Paris in a large stretch white (angelic?) limousine reminiscent of those in Don DeLillo‘s Cosmopolis, an adaptation of which recently hit the big screens directed by David Cronenberg.  With nine appointments for the day, M. Oscar shifts into his various roles with relative ease – from beggar to assassin, from loving father to motion-capture artist inexplicably doing ninja-like martial arts moves, squeezing off rounds on a machine gun while running on a treadmill and engaging in sexual embraces with a Britney Spears, Oops I Did It Again-clad contortionist. With surprise appearances in two of the appointments by Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, it seems all the more weird and dreamlike. My head is still spinning…

Care to dance?

The woman who shuttles M. Oscar around to his appointments, Céline (Edith Scob), is his guardian angel it seems. When we see her from the cockpit of the limousine, a white neon light surrounding the window between the driver and passenger rings her head, giving the appearance of a halo. That she seemingly saves his life at least twice seems to add an inkling of credence to that theory. Maybe. Who knows if this is the case since there is no way to tell what is trustworthy in this narrative and not.

Where the limousines convalesce.

And that’s really the crux of this film. It is a ride that I never imagined when I sat down to watch this at the always lovely IU Cinema. And it is one that I will never forget. Something tells me that anyone who sees this one will likely feel the same. This movie is for the adventurous only. Others need not apply.

Here is the trailer: