2012 Year in Review: The 10 Best Movies
The acting equivalent of Synecdoche, New York’s treatise to writing or theatre, Leos Carax’ Holy Motors is a look at identity filtered through the structure of a kinda-sorta genre anthology. Starring Denis Lavant as the chameleonic Mr. Oscar, who literally spends his entire day transforming from one character into another for a series of dramatic scenarios, Carax’ film functions both as a whimsical look at narrative conventions and a semitragic portrait of the personas we adopt – or more often, are forced into – by circumstances often seemingly clichéd as they are inescapable.
Not unlike Charlie Kaufman’s film, Carax’ odyssey is not for everyone, but it’s an experience that rewards attentive viewers, especially once the film begins exploring scenarios that have become paint-by-numbers drama: deathbed reconciliations, parent-child conflicts, bittersweet breakups. But a certain sense of silliness – less in terms of performance than conceptualization – allows the conventions of these moments to be undermined, even as they build to a much grander and more meaningful crescendo, leading to a payoff that suggests the timelessness of human foibles, even as it reinforces the meaning they create in our lives.