Thursday 21 May 2015

Cannes 2015: Love by Gaspar Noé

Love was the hottest ticket of this year's edition. A late addition to the official selection (but out of competition), and with a midnight screening slot (usually reserved for the more violent/trashier/naughtier films), it felt as if just about everybody was queuing to get in the screening, with a terrifying scrum and a palpable excitment once inside, with Thierry Frémaux delivering a rousing introduction of the film.

Gaspar Noé loves to shock, and has always done so throughout his career, which reached his highlight with the difficult to watch but incredibly affecting Irreversible, which was presented in Cannes in 2002, and which caused some audience members to pass out, or so does the legend go.
Its follow-up Enter The Void was a disappointment for me however, as for all its grand claims of a head trip, it really does not amount to much. Past the intriguing premise, the film did not go anywhere. And unfortunately, with Love, Gaspar Noé has slipped down the slope even more.

In Love, recently married Murphy (Karl Glusman), is awaken by a phone call from the mother of his ex Electra (Aomi Muyock), who has gone missing. In the course of a rainy day, he reminisces his relationship with her, the greatest love of his life.

Love is not told on chronological order, and while the director seemed to aim to make The Last Year in Marienbad of adult cinema, instead it has the rather unfortunate effect of making it less than compelling for the first hour or so, when none of what is at stake is particularly clear to the audience. And while many films have some beautifully enigmatic narratives, asking its audience to put the pieces of the puzzle together, here there is not compelling reason for us to want to do so, with such uninvolving characters. It is only later that the story finally picks up, but it is too little too late. And with the dire and flat dialogues, he ends up with a Tinder soap opera instead.

The opening scene of Love, a very graphic scene has a young couple pleasuring each other in one long shot and with graphic details (which had the Lumiére go wild), with the gentle music of Eric Satie in the background. But all of its claims of being a transgressive cinema, the graphic scenes are still rather dull, and filmed without any particular inspiration, and fail to portray intimacy in the arresting way the shower scene at the end/beginning of Irreversible did.

And the main problem with Love is that it is rather conservative and even juvenile in the way it portrays relationships, physical or others. Which could be forgiven considering we are seeing the point of view of the rather young male protagonist. However, considering the fluidity of genders and relationships of the current Tinder generation, what we see actually feels incredibly dated, and Gaspar Noé seems out of touch with this current generation. I'm thinking of a scene involving a trans Brasilian escort in the particular, and the disgust it generates with Murphy, a scene that would not have been out of place in one of those terrible 80's French comedies. As for Murphy himself, we are told he is largely based on the director's younger self, which is slightly worrying considering how he treats of women and his lack of maturity, even considering his young age.

As the visuals, well apart from a 3D money shot (which was wholly predictable but works brilliantly still), Love is frightfully dull. Some vaguely interesting neon lightings and static shots are the extent of Gaspar Noé's prowess, which feels like such a step back compared to some of his previous films. To think the same man directed a wonderfully evocative segment of naughty anthology Destricted, what's happened to him?!

It has become obvious that Gaspar Noé is suffering a serious lack of inspiration at every level, despite taking several years in between projects, and his becoming the shadow of his old self. With Love he has committed what would have been unthinkable a few years ago, a forgettable film.

Star Rating: 

Love was presented in the Official Selection, Out of Competition.

Love. France/Belgium 2015. Directed by Gaspar Noé. Starring Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin...

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