I got out of the noon showing of Leos Carax‘s Holy Motors about 100 minutes ago…holy moley! Holy Paris, holy Trip City, holy nocturne, holy inferno, holy freedom, holy holy, roly poly, put on the wackazoid. Holy white stretch limo. Holy wigs and fake beards and long nails and spirit gum. And holy Denis Lavant, Eva Mendez, Kylie Minogue and Michel Piccoli! Dali/Bunuel/Lynch/Carax live large. Welcome to Holy Nuttervile in the best, most spirit-releasing sense of that term.

If only an American filmmaker was this mad, this imaginative, this unchained, this willing to leap. I wonder if any American has it in him or her to create something like this. If he or she did, Americans would probably say “what the fuck?” and stay away in droves. It’s in the realm but well beyond anything David Lynch has ever done. It’s so perfect to have seen this in Cannes, and to be among a crowd clapping and cheering on their feet, and then to come onto a street filled with sun and warmth.

It’s basically a dreamscape movie about a possibly wealthy guy named Oscar (Lavant) whose job it is to tool around Paris in a big white limo and pretend to be other people, complete with first-rate makeup and latex and wigs and you-name-it. It’s the inner life of a mad director (i.e., Carax) who’s letting his imagination run wild. Who pays Oscar or why he would be rich doing this kind of thing, or why he goes home to a small white condo and has two chimpanzees for children instead of the two or three human kids he waves goodbye to in the beginning…forget all that. This movie is about playtime. Anything can, will and does happen, and reality has nothing to do with it. And yet it feels grounded in the stuff. It’s “loony” but believable. And very handsomely shot.

Oscar’s first pretend is an old, bent-over crone panhandler, begging for coins with a cup. Actually that’s the third pretend, come to think. His first appearance is in pajamas, getting out of bed and looking out a large picture window at an airport runway, and then finding his way into a theatre full of people with a naked toddler walking down the aisle. And then he’s a super-rich businessman with a big white modernist home and the kids on an outdoor balcony. And then comes the old crone. And then he’s a lithe actor wearing a mo-cap suit and doing a kind of battle dance with a Darth Maul sword and a machine gun, and then an erotic dance with a lycra Lady in Red.

And then he’s a deformed, snag-nailed Rasputin figure who worms his way into the sight lines of some fashion-maggers shooting Mendez in what looks like Pere Lachaise, and then he kidnaps her and carries her to his lair like Quasimodo carrying Esmeralda. And then he’s a bald-headed, moustachied assassin with a switch knife. And then a tired, middle-class dad picking up his daughter from a party. And then Keir Dullea at the very end of 2001, under sheets on a large bed in pajamas only white-haired and with no black monolith. And that’s only part of it.

Densi Lavant in one of many guises in Holy Motors.

The only Carax films I’d seen until today were Boy Meets Girl (’84) and Lovers on the Bridge (’91). Yeah, I know — shame on me for not seeing Pola X (’99), but I will soon correct that oversight.

I love Peter Bradshaw‘s description, up today: “A great big pole-vault over the barrier of normality by someone who feels that the possibilities of cinema have not been exhausted by conventional realist drama.”