A voyeur of dis­cov­ery

Gas­par Noé’s lat­est at­tempt to shock view­ers has orig­i­nal ideas, but the 3D may even­tu­ally be too much for you, writes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TICKET | REVIEWS -

Karl Glus­man and Aomi Muy­ock in Love

LOVE Di­rected by Gas­par Noé. Star­ring Karl Glus­man, Aomi Muy­ock, Klara Kristin, Juan Saave­dra, Aron Pages, Vin­cent Mar­aval. 18 cert, lim­ited release, 135 min Any­body ap­proach­ing this ex­haust­ing 3D pa­rade of high-end erot­ica as (ahem) a Gas­par Noé vir­gin might be taken aback at the in­tel­li­gence that the Ar­gen­tinian-born French­man is un­ques­tion­ably mel­low­ing out.

Telling the tale of a pre­ten­tious, un­trust­wor­thy young Amer­i­can adrift in Paris, the pic­ture has its ac­tors do ev­ery­thing you are ex­pected to do in three­somes, more pop­u­lous or­gies and the classy su­per-creamy va­ri­ety of vanilla sex.

All that are miss­ing are the violence, the ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and any trig­gers for worth­while out­rage.

Noé emerged at the turn of the cen­tury as a great sen­sual ter­ror­ist of world cin­ema. No copy­ist has sat­is­fac­to­rily repli­cated the sub-woofer throbs and sick­en­ing cam­era lurches of Ir­re­versible and Seul Con­tre Tous. The de­li­cious pre­ten­sions of En­ter the Void – a film made by a bril­liant 45-year-old teenager – be­long to him and him alone.

Love seems, in com­par­i­son, like a shadow. No­body likely to go to a Gas­par Noé film is likely to be shocked by it. What other rea­son is there to at­tend?

Well, Noé has – by suggest­ing what ef­fect he hopes the film will have on both male and fe­male pri­vates – more or less ac­knowl­edged that he doesn’t mind Love be­ing seen as (among other things) pornog­ra­phy. If that is what you seek, then a highly edited version of the pic­ture may do you very nicely.

The cast is im­plau­si­bly good-look­ing and the sex scenes un­re­al­is­ti­cally grace­ful. It is, to my knowl­edge, the first 3D film that causes au­di­ences to duck for fear of be­ing damp­ened by . . . Well, if you don’t know where this sen­tence is go­ing, you prob­a­bly don’t want to know.

Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Benoît De­bie has strapped down his cam­era, tight­ened the fo­cus and al­lowed star­tling jumps be­tween dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. When the cam­era does move, it trails its sub­ject down long paths and through lengthy cor­ri­dors. It’s an ef­fec­tive tech­nique that draws the viewer into the role of dis­pas­sion­ate voyeur.

Though some of the mu­sic choices are a tad ob­vi­ous (Bach’s Gold­berg Vari­a­tions for a sen­si­tive cou­pling? Really? Again?), the sound de­sign re­mains spooky, en­velop­ing and orig­i­nal.

All this is wel­come. Un­for­tu­nately the char­ac­ters in Love, which is largely im­pro­vised by the in­ex­pe­ri­enced cast, are un­der­de­vel­oped to the point of va­pid­ity. We be­gin with the Amer­i­can Mur­phy (Karl Glus­man), now liv­ing with a young part­ner Omi (Klara Kristin) and their child, wak­ing up to moan in­ces­santly about ev­ery­thing in his ap­par­ently lovely world.

The phone rings and he learns that Elec­tra (Aomi Muy­ock), his for­mer love, is not an­swer­ing calls and may have killed her­self. We then spend two hours and 15 min­utes piec­ing to­gether the me­chan­ics – well oiled by or­ganic lu­bri­cants – of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mur­phy, Omi and Elec­tra.

The run­ning time mat­ters. There are the mak­ings here of a de­cent 90-minute doo­dle, to be knocked off be­fore Noé em­barks on his next full-scale project. It is soaked in orig­i­nal style. The at­mo­spher­ics are pow­er­ful. Played out at epic length, how­ever, Mur­phy’s nar­cis­sis­tic wit­ter­ings even­tu­ally be­come im­pos­si­ble to bear. The pre­ten­sions show through, the sex scenes be­come plain ex­haust­ing and the three ac­tors wear out their very mod­est wel­come.

In sev­eral shots hum­ble Noé al­lows us to see a poster for DW Grif­fith’s Birth of a Na­tion. Love is nowhere near so of­fen­sive. It is cer­tainly not so in­no­va­tive. But it does feel nearly as long.

For all that, the film has taken on an ac­ci­den­tal sig­nif­i­cance over the past week. Though no great work of art, Love show­cases the lib­er­al­ism, recre­ational deca­dence and taste for ex­cess that makes cities such as Paris worth liv­ing in. Th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics are, of course, also the things that most en­rage the fundamentalists. Maybe you should sit through it on prin­ci­ple.

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