Fans of adventurous, unpredictable, go-for-broke cinema should under no circumstances miss Holy Motors, the first feature in 13 years from France’s Leos Carax (best known in the U.S. for 1991’s The Lovers on the Bridge, starring Juliette Binoche). A half-goofy, half-mournful meditation on the digital age, the film stars Carax regular Denis Lavant as a mysterious man traveling Paris in a white stretch limo, whose day consists of a series of bizarre “appointments”—each of which sees him adopting a different guise, from bag lady to frustrated dad to professional assassin. He transforms himself into a horrific troll and kidnaps a model played by Eva Mendes; Kylie Minogue, as a fellow “actor” (or is she?), sings him a power ballad.
For whose benefit these performances take place is never made fully clear—it’s suggested that a multitude of hidden cameras record them for an unseen audience—but it doesn’t really matter. Carax has a thesis in mind, involving the gradual displacement of physical machines by nearly invisible arrays of transistors, but even that ultimately takes a backseat to the ever-shifting dream factory he’s created. Lavant plays 11 characters, per the closing credits, and Holy Motors is arguably the best 11 films of the year.