Getting my own numerological obsession out of the way… Early in the film Oscar asks Céline, his chauffeuse, if he has a lot of appointments scheduled for the day. Nine, she tells him. But at this point Oscar has already had two appointments. So I counted them myself:
1. Hotel portal into movie theater
2. Exec leaving big white house with children and guards on the roof
3. Beggar woman
4. Point-light CGI dance…
5. Beauty and the beast at photo shoot…
6. Father retrieving daughter from party
7. Entr’acte with accordions…
8. Murder at warehouse
9. Murder at cafe
10. Old man dying in bed
11. Musical interlude with Kylie Minogue…
12. Home with chimps
One could split a couple of these appointments into two separate scenes, but each of the 12 requires Oscar to assume a different persona. Between appointments he is Oscar, riding in the limo getting ready for his next appointment. But is this the “real” Oscar? Or as limo-rider is he again playing a role? Surely he is, since it’s this role — Oscar as performer doing a variety of gigs — that holds the whole movie together. Make it 13 appointments then.
But what about the last scene, the titular scene, when the holy motors, the limos, are all gathered at the garage? Oscar isn’t in this scene, but like the interior of the limo, the garage is a setting that frames the whole movie. The cars are lamenting the lost age of the “visible machines” like themselves, the “holy motors,” replaced now by the unholy and invisible machines of CGI and the backroom banking mechanisms where the movie deals get done and the appointments get put on the books. We infer that Oscar too is a holy motor, a visible machine, a live actor, and that his time too is coming to an end. So this nostalgic garage, populated by no living humans, is a kind of mausoleum. We’ve had scenes shot in graveyards, we’ve seen Oscar killing his own double, twice, we’ve seen Kylie either suicided or playing a suicide, so this comically mournful scene of reminiscing limos is the future unreality toward which the rest of the movie points.
So let’s make it 14 appointments, the last one with Oscar absent except in postmortem spirit. And voilà, we have the fourteen Stations of the Cross, with Oscar playing the role of Jesus and the garage playing the tomb, the Fourteenth Station. And the limos are like the angels in the tomb, ready to bring Oscar back from the dead again tomorrow. I believe it was the Entr’acte that tipped off this idea for me, since it’s played inside a cathedral like a liturgical procession, and all of those old French churches have the Stations lining their walls.