Carax himself opens the movie, waking up in bed with his index finger turning into a key which opens a door hidden in the wall of his room that opens into a concert hall. And that's about as normal as it gets for the rest of the film's running time. Motion capture/latex-suited sex, Eva Mendes' armpit being licked by a bloody mouth, talking limousines and a musical interlude by Kylie Minogue are among the images and moments that will be seared into your brain, but the film isn't quite the lightweight lark that makes it sound. Carax is attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to explore a variety of genres, while pissing on the conventions of them at the same time. He's also referencing his own movie career, film history, and god knows what else, in a movie that throws a lot against the wall, hoping that some of it will stick. There's a saying that goes those who can't teach, teach gym. And in this, those who can't get their movie made, sneer at those who can instead. There is a bitter feeling throughout that is hard to shake off, despite stabs at more elegant and romantic sequences.
There is certainly no denying that Carax is brimming with ideas to share from his twelve year absence, but that doesn't mean they are all good or reasoned. Nor will they be completely understood by most viewers (which isn't necessarily a criticism, but should be noted particularly by those reading over-the-top raves for the pic). When Lavant's Merde (reprised from "Toyko!") eats a handful of money as if it were a bag of chips, the film takes on the tone of a project made by a first year college student who is making Very Important Art That Says Something. However, "Holy Motors" is most effective when it takes a more subtle tack, examining the artifice of moviemaking and trying to work through the notion of creating real art and emotion in an entirely contrived environment. Even Carax's choices of genres to tackle -- which include everything from CGI animation to musicals to death dramas to "Before Sunrise"-style romances -- lead to some interesting places. Meanwhile, other moments -- such as Merde napping on Eva Mendes lap, naked, with a giant erection, are shruggingly provocative. We'd be more interested if Carax had recorded the phone call he made to Mendes' people about the part -- that would've been far more fascinating, and would have actually fallen in line with much of the thematic arc of the picture.