The Masters: Movieline Critic Alison Willmore's Top 10 Films of 2012
6. Holy Motors
Every time Denis Lavant exits the limo in which he spends his day, it's to play a part in a new, buoyant, strange and funny scenario: He puts on a body stocking and takes part in two green-screen sequences. He dresses up as a hunchback who lives in the sewer and kidnaps a model played by Eva Mendes. He sings with Kylie Minogue atop a hotel and dips into family dramas and gangster tussles. It's a phantasmagoric tribute to the movies, but also a melancholy one. Lavant's character is revealed to be a permanent role player who's only himself when he's between gigs in his vehicle, taking part in a metaphor for an art form whose time may be ending.
It's the story of a love affair between a killer-whale trainer who lost her legs in an accident and a part-time underground kickboxer who recently inherited a five-year-old son he barely knows. But beneath the wacky-sounding premise, Jacques Audiard's film is a marvel of a melodrama. It's a tender and raw film with a big, old-fashioned heart beneath its contemporary trappings, but it's also in touch with physicality in a way that's rare on screen. Marion Cotillard's character has to learn how to live in a reshaped body, while Matthias Schoenaerts' can seem part animal anyway. Their courtship brings out better aspects in both of these broken people, who, together, might be able to form an imperfect whole.