Holy Motors



French drama is mature and strange, but also sad and lovely.
  • Review Date: October 17, 2012
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

It's tough to know what Holy Motors is actually saying, but one possible theme is the sad, lonely lives of performers, giving up their own identities and taking on others' on cue. Characters don't seem to learn much, except that we see them growing weary of such a life.

Positive role models

The main character is a highly skilled actor and performer who takes on several different characters and occupies them completely. This level of skill is admirable and inspirational, but the character himself is rather sad and lonely and growing weary of his existence.


The main character plays a creepy monster in one sequence, with a milky-white eye and a crazy walk. He bites off a woman's fingers, with blood. Later, he kidnaps a model, licks her armpit, and smears blood from his lips there. Characters are stabbed in the neck, with streams of spurting blood. A man is shot at a sidewalk cafe, with more blood. Two figures are shown splattered on the sidewalk, having jumped from the top of a building. Characters die, and there are conversations about death. There's also some strange, unsettling, and potentially scary dream/nightmare imagery.


The main character appears fully naked for long moments, with an erect penis. An attractive woman appears in a latex motion-capture outfit, and the main character wears a similar outfit. They engage in sensual touching (breasts) and licking (crotch area). Later, their performance is turned into a brief, computer-animated scene of lovemaking dragon-like creatures (complete with animated penis). Another woman appears in her bra and panties.


The French "merde" is used twice, and the subtitles translate it to "s--t." "Moron" and "idiot" are also used.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character smokes cigarettes regularly. He slowly starts drinking whisky over the course of the film; in one scene, he appears to be drunk. The mood is one of despair and regret, rather than humor.

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.

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?


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 are quite unlike anything else ever made. Like the others, HOLY MOTORS is deeply felt, but it also comes with a certain unsettling quality. 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 17, 2012
DVD release date:February 26, 2013
Cast:Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue
Director:Leos Carax
Run time:115 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Teen, 17 years old Written bySean Broucek August 11, 2013


Parents, this indie drama is probably on your teen's radar, because of the fascinating plot and intense heart-pumping violence, but the strong sexual situations and cringe-inducing graphic violent content is best left for mature teens and adults. Violence includes bloody stabbings, a dream sequence involving kidnapping, a man biting off a woman's fingers and licking her armpit, a graphic shooting, and two kids jumping off a tall building and their blood splattered on an old woman's face in a result of them jumping off, but all violence is in dreams except the shooting. Sex includes sensual touching, nonsexual full-frontal graphic male nudity (including an erect penis and buttocks), and a sex scene (with female buttocks and a breast). Language is used infrequently, but still includes s-t & f--k. There is also smoking. In the end, this near-perfect drama is best for mature viewers. SUGGESTED MPAA RATING: Rated R For Brutal Fantasy Violence, Some Strong Sexual Content, Brief Graphic Nudity, Language, Disturbing Images & Some Smoking
Parent Written byShivom Oza July 14, 2013

Holy Motors (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Awe-striking, Awe-inspiring, Awe-some

The film, Holy Motors, directed by Leos Carax, competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It revolves around a day in the life of Monsier Oscar. Denis Lavant is terrific as the maverick Monsieur Oscar. Not often do you find an actor, who embodies such versatility in his range. The make-up department deserves special mention. Direction and writing par excellence! The film was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival under the 'Rendezvous With French Cinema' category. Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) is man of many moods and faces. He is shows as someone whose 'profession' is to transform from one character to another. So, he is shown as a businessman, an assassin, a beggar, a monster and even a mutant (somewhat!). It is never made clear through the running of the film as to what Oscar's motives are. He is chauffeured around by an elderly, gentle lady who is doing her job of keeping her master safe. The two move around Paris running one assignment after another. The so-called assignments range from amusing to absurd. You have Oscar and a woman shown fornicating, albeit with their latex body suits on. There's another sequence wherein Oscar is supposed to kill a former accomplice Theo. Following the stabbing, he makes Theo's corpse appear exactly like him so as to make it look like his assassination. However, it does not go as planned and what you have is two Oscars lying on the floor in a pool of blood. There's one particular sequence in which Oscar is shown playing the accordion, and subsequently being joined by an orchestra. This particular instrumental is stupendous and the way it has been shot is mind-blowing. The story of the film is not linear. There are different interpretations that you can extract out of this French masterpiece. However, at no point does the film get tiring. It does get confusing, albeit pleasantly confusing! If that's an emotion! The performances given by the lead actor and the rest of the supporting cast are marvellous. The make-up is out-of-this-world. The cinematography deserves special mention as do the special effects team. Don't take this film too literally. Sit back, relish the proceedings. Once the film's over, give a long thought about what it's trying to convey. It has many connotations - political, man vs machine, religion v/s science. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as someone in the film says. Apt for the film itself! It's a different kind of film alright, but it is one that you should watch! Shivom Oza
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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