Bro­ken on through to the other side

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Michael Wade Simp­son The New Mex­i­can

En­ter the Void, psy­che­delic odyssey, not rated, The Screen, 2.5 chiles

A young westerner who deals drugs in Tokyo gets shot in a bath­room stall dur­ing a bust. The cam­era sub­se­quently takes on the role of the dead man’s spirit, drift­ing above the rooftops and through ceil­ings in some of the seed­ier neigh­bor­hoods of the city, fol­low­ing, like some kind of guardian an­gel, the sis­ter with whom he has had an in­ces­tu­ously close re­la­tion­ship. Flash­backs from the dead man’s child­hood sup­ply more blood, sex, and tragedy. It is end­less night.

French di­rec­tor Gas­par Noé made a name for him­self with the 2002 film Ir­réversible, which stood out at film fes­ti­vals for its re­verse nar­ra­tive, ex­per­i­men­tal vis­ual ef­fects, and ex­treme vi­o­lence. En­ter the Void, which the di­rec­tor has la­beled a “psy­che­delic melo­drama,” is not with­out vi­o­lence but takes a sharp turn to­ward pre­dom­i­nantly hal­lu­cino­genic im­agery and an even less lin­ear story line. A 164-minute cut of the film was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, but the ver­sion be­ing dis­trib­uted in the United States is more than 20 min­utes shorter. Even so, be ready for a ride through ex­tremely long se­quences of trippy

a kind of spir­i­tual guide to the af­ter­life, sug­gest­ing the path for the soul to take be­tween the time of death and re­birth, is, not sur­pris­ingly, the book Os­car has been read­ing. “I know I’m not a junkie,” he says to him­self, over and over again, as the cam­era set­tles down on the sofa with him to get high. He may not be a junkie, but he is clearly a mess.

In an­other flash­back, the love of brother and sis­ter is es­tab­lished in a thumb-slic­ing, blood-swap­ping cer­e­mony dur­ing which the two chil­dren swear they will never be apart. Shortly after­ward, Linda is dragged off, fol­low­ing the deaths of their guardian grand­par­ents, into fos­ter care. The fact that Os­car, as an adult, saves enough money in his new ca­reer as a Tokyo drug dealer to bring his sis­ter over from the U.S. might be a hap­pily-ever-af­ter moment in an­other film. Here, big brother takes lit­tle sis­ter to a disco, feeds her Ec­stasy, and watches as she is lured into be­com­ing a strip­per. So much for happy end­ings.

Clearly En­ter the Void is not de­signed for gen­eral au­di­ences. Its ni­hilis­tic world of sex and drugs of­fers no typ­i­cal movie-land re­demp­tion. Still, the vast amount of dig­i­tal ef­fects in play are trans­port­ing, like the light shows that com­puter screens are pro­grammed to of­fer as ac­com­pa­ni­ment to mu­sic, and Noé’s ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with nar­ra­tive works in its own dreamy way. Best seen for its arty spirit of ad­ven­ture and wild sense of de­sign, the heart of the film, com­ing from a di­rec­tor who of­fers the point of view of a self-pro­claimed athe­ist, is not for the eas­ily de­pressed. For Noé, life, death, and re­birth, at least in this film, is a col­or­ful but ul­ti­mately bad trip. im­agery set to an am­bi­ent mu­si­cal score. If you’ve al­ways wanted to try LSD, or psilo­cy­bin mush­rooms, but have been afraid to — this is the movie for you. In a year when so many films are be­ing of­fered in 3-D, En­ter the Void would be re­dun­dant in that en­hanced for­mat. It’s 2-D to the max.

Un­like Sofia Cop­pola, whose Lost in Trans­la­tion saw the char­ac­ters played by Bill Mur­ray and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son brought to­gether amid the strange­ness and in­ten­sity of Tokyo, Noé seems more in­ter­ested in the city be­cause of the way it looks — the con­stant jolt of neon out of black­ness — and be­cause of the no­to­ri­ously harsh anti-drug laws there, which heighten the stakes. Noé’s char­ac­ters only come apart.

Os­car and Linda, the brother and sis­ter at the cen­ter of the “story,” (played as adults by Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta) were rid­ing in the back seat of the fam­ily car as chil­dren when their par­ents were killed in a head-on col­li­sion with a truck. Flash­back mem­o­ries not only ap­pear through­out the film in seem­ingly ran­dom or­der but re­peat. A scene of young Linda sob­bing be­hind the bloody corpses of her par­ents, trapped in wreck­age, be­gins to take on more than shock value the third or fourth time around. Noé seems to sug­gest that the most dev­as­tat­ing mo­ments of our lives are es­sen­tial. They stay with us, be­yond even our deaths.

The af­ter­life in this film is treated un­can­nily like the drug-in­duced trip­ping Os­car sub­jects him­self to early in the story. In fact, Os­car is un­der the in­flu­ence of a hal­lu­cino­gen at the time of his death. The Ti­betan Book of the Dead, which is

Tuned in and turned on: Paz de la Huerta

Too close for com­fort: Jesse Kuhn and Emily Alyn Lind

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