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
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.