Gaspar Noé has constructed a career of lurid and lugubrious films that reward those who possess a strong constitution. These are movies with a mean streak, replete with drugs and death and the follies of human existence, but discerning viewers may find a strange sort of perverted, ontological profundity beneath the blood and bodily fluids. With his last two films, Enter The Void and Irreversible, each over-rife with rancor and depressing as hell, he somehow manages to find insight in indulgence.With his newest film, Love, a three-hour monster of a movie that’s been described as some sort of arthouse porn epic, Noé seems to be staying on brand. Love will grace the midnight section of Cannes in two weeks. It remains to be seen whether the title is ironic, or if Noé has made an inexplicable turn toward sentimentality; its marketing materials suggest the former.
The first poster—which depicts a medley of mouths that are ruby red and dripping with spit and... something else—begot a variety of responses, from “Eh” to “Agh!” Now the second poster has surfaced, and it makes the first one look like a page from a Berenstain Bears book. If you’re at work, or the gym, or on a crowded subway car during rush hour, do not click that link, do not bring the poster up on your phone. To put it as simply as possible, the poster presents an ejaculating penis as held by a woman’s hand. Er, at least Noé isn’t objectifying any women?
Cineuropa describes the film as a “3-D sexual melodrama about a boy and a girl, and another girl, explores the many facets of love beyond good and evil: genetic needs, surpassing oneself, altered states of consciousness, hard drugs, mental illness, power games, blinding lights, releases of sperm, fluids and tears.” Karl Glusman has the lead role of Murphy. The trade goes on to detail the opening scene thusly:
“[T]he story apparently kicks off one morning as a telephone rings. Twenty-five-year-old Murphy wakes up surrounded by his young wife and his three-year-old child. He hears his answerphone. In the message, Electra’s mother asks him, sick with worry, if he has heard any news about her daughter, who went missing a long time ago. She fears that she has been involved in a serious accident. Over the course of a long, grey day, Murphy finds himself alone in his flat, reminiscing about his greatest love affair with Electra, which lasted two years: a passionate love that involved all sorts of promises, games and excesses...”
It’d be easy to dismiss the penis poster and garish plot description as the work of a lazy shock performer. Many already have, according to a perusal of what the kids call “Film Twitter.”
But Noé demands closer attention. You can kind of think of him as the Kubrick of the French New Extremism, a coterie of boundary-obliterating filmmakers who delve unrepentantly into the dingiest, dirtiest, darkest corners of human existence. Claire Denis is arguably the most widely known member of this unofficial club, but Noé is, without a doubt, the most formally audacious. His Irreversible (2002) unfolds backwards, like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, but with more death and less diabetes. With its attenuated narrative and cacophonous sound design, the filthy, furious film doesn’t want to be liked. Noé subsequently took almost six years to bring his gloriously gaudy (and utterly depressing) Enter The Void to the big screen. A three-hour Ouroboros of a film, Enter The Void follows a young man named Oscar, traversing his entire lifetime, from the collision of sperm and egg to the waning moments of Oscar’s twilight (with detours into flower-laden fields and seedy sex clubs, fleeting glimpses of a happy childhood and an increasing reliance on drug-peddling that corrodes Oscar’s life). The director channels Kubrick but puts his own spin on things, turning the Star Child from 2001 into an aborted fetus. Exhilarating and exhausting, the astral dream film makes you feel like you just lived an entire life in three hours.
Additional details on Love are scant, but you can probably rest assured that the film will earn an NC-17 if it even gets released Stateside. As silly as Love sounds, Noé’s track record makes this a must-see. No one else is making movies like him.