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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Holy Motors is a very strange yet poetic, sad, lovely -- and mature -- movie from highly respected French director Leos Carax. Violence ranges from unsettling dream/nightmare imagery and discussions of death to killings, spurting blood, and dead bodies. There's also graphic male full-frontal nudity (including an erect penis) and other strong sexuality. Language is mild but includes two uses of the French "merde," which the English subtitles translate as "s--t." The main character also smokes several cigarettes and gets drunk on whisky. Holy Motors is bizarre enough that only the most movie-crazy teens will even be interested in seeing it.
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What's the story?
A mysterious man called Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) spends an entire day and night riding around Paris in a limousine, changing into various costumes and different makeup for several "appointments." He portrays an elderly female beggar, a gangster, a creepy monster, and a dying old man, among others. The performances don't seem to be for anyone in particular, or maybe they're for everyone. But Monsieur Oscar seems to be growing more and more weary of his profession. He reaches a kind of turning point when he accidentally runs into a woman (Kylie Minogue) who may have been a former love and who seems to be doing the same kind of job. Her fate begins to raise new questions for Monsieur Oscar. Should the show go on?
Is it any good?
HOLY MOTORS is deeply felt, but it also comes with a certain unsettling quality. Perhaps the most mesmerizing, poetic, baffling, and elusive filmmaker in France, Leos Carax has completed only five feature films in 28 years, yet all of them, including this one, are quite unlike anything else ever made. Carax seems coolly fascinated by nightmarish ideas -- including the return of a disturbing creature from the 2009 anthology film Tokyo! -- as if he's deliberately trying to shock his audience. This quality can prevent viewers from escaping completely inside the movie's universe.
Yet there's no denying Carax's romantic, passionate side. Songstress Minogue appears (and sings) in one moving sequence, and Edith Scob plays the warm, compassionate limo driver Celine. In Carax's best film to date, The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), his grandiose passion transcended the movie's squirmy side. Holy Motors doesn't reach those heights, but it's quite amazing nonetheless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Holy Motors' sexuality. How is sex portrayed? Are any of the scenes disturbing? Why? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
What's the impact of the film's violence? How does it contribute to the story?
Do you think a movie like this would ever (or could ever) be made in the United States? Why or why not? How does it compare to other foreign films you've seen?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.