Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Movie Review: Enter the Void

Enter the Void ** ½
Directed By:
Gaspar Noe.
Written By: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Nathaniel Brown (Oscar), Paz de la Huerta (Linda), Cyril Roy (Alex), Emily Alyn Lind (Young Linda), Jesse Kuhn (Young Oscar), Olly Alexander (Victor), Masato Tanno (Mario), Ed Spear (Bruno), Sara Stockbridge (Suzy).

I have to hand it to Gaspar Noe. It takes balls the size of watermelons to make a film as screwed up and daring as Enter the Void is. He had to have known that his film would alienate pretty much any audience member who ever dared to watch the damn thing, yet for two and half hours, Noe makes his dizzying, sometimes disgusting, sometimes ridiculous, always provocative film on screen and dares you to turn away. Most probably will. I, on the other hand, was enthralled.

Noe’s film is told in three distinct parts, all following the life and death of a low level drug dealer named Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) living in Tokyo. In the first part – approximately 20 minutes or so is told from Oscar’s literal point of view. The camera registers everything that Oscar sees – even registering his blinks – as he gets stoned (and hallucinates), then heads out onto the streets of Tokyo to conduct business, ending up in a disgusting toilet in a bar with the cops banging on the door before shooting him, and collapsing on the floor in a pool of his own blood.

The second part is a flashback of Oscar’s life, and everything that led him up to being in that bathroom in the first place. The camera hovers just behind Oscar – we are literally peaking over his shoulder to witness the events that shaped his life – including the brutal car accident that killed his parents, and his painful separation from his beloved younger sister Linda (who, we meet again in Tokyo, where she has become a stripper).

The third part, we are again seeing things from Oscar’s point of view, but this time after he is dead. He floats above the action, spying on his sister and his best friend Alex (Cyril Roy), who gave Oscar the Tibetan book of the dead before he died – the ideas of reincarnation contained within will certainly come into play in the film’s final act. In this part – undoubtedly the longest of the three – Oscar seems to transport himself through the lights in any given room, as the camera moves relentlessly into the light, goes a trippy, acid inspired visual montage, before coming out somewhere else entirely.

For the first two acts of the movie, I went with the movie. I realized fairly early on that this was going to be an entirely different type of movie, and that I had two choices – to give myself over to its insane visuals and narrative, or to fight it tooth and nail. Being lazy (and because I knew that if I fought the film, it would be a very long two and half hours), I picked the path of least resistance and found Noe’s visuals in the film astonishing, vibrant and original. Although I was disappointed that he chose to use this style on such a seemingly seedy, simple story, I didn’t mind because I felt like I was in the hands of a director who knew what he was doing.

Somewhere in the third act though, I lost patience. It became kind of a joke the number of times Noe and his camera “transported” itself – first through whatever lights were in the room, and later just about anything else. By the time Linda has an abortion, and we see the bloody fetus sitting in the sterile try, I was too busy wondering how long it would be before Noe used the fetus as his latest transport device (answer, about a minute), to be overly disgusted or offended by the image itself. By the time we get to the films overly long (not to mention overly literal) climax, I was passed the point of caring any longer. The film’s final sequence is an extended one (I’d say close to 20 minutes, but maybe it just felt longer than it was), as Oscar transports himself into the “Hotel Love”, where we see every character we have come across in the movie engaged in one form of sex or another. Once again though, I was too busy trying to figure out if the sex was simulated or not (it certainly looks real), to really care what Noe was trying to accomplish. By the time we get to the final couple – Linda and Alex – and Noe literally takes his camera inside Linda’s vagina for a POV shot of sex from the perspective of the vagina – complete with a cum shot that goes all over the camera – I realized that somewhere along the way, the entire enterprise had veered off into the ridiculous, and was not going to be able to recover by the films end.

Yet as ridiculous as I ended up finding Enter the Void, I cannot say that the movie is bad. True, I’m not sure even Noe really had any idea what his film means, and spent too much time trying to provoke a response from the audience (and, I might add, I don’t think he cares WHAT response he gets, as long as it’s a powerful one) and that at two and half hours, Noe goes at least one hour past the logical point of forcing an audience to endure a movie like this. But having said that, Enter the Void is also just about the most daring, most visually innovative film I have seen this year. I cannot say I much liked it – and I can honestly think of no one that I would actually recommend going to see the movie – but I also cannot say I was sorry to have seen the film. Too many directors these days play it all too safe. Say what you want about Gaspar Noe, and Enter the Void (and a lot has already been said), but play it safe, the film certainly does not.

1 comment:

  1. just want to ask a quick question? what is the definition of playing it safe? you are watching a movie in which the way it was filmed and the sequences out together are that of the person that created it.

    My biggest problem is that we have now seemed to enter visual culture with preconceived "standards"

    "playing it safe" is saying im not going to shoot but pass the ball to make sure it scores. this is not game with preconstructed rules that can or cannot be followed to gain a result.

    the result here like in any other movies is; was his decision to film the movie that way successful for you, which it clearly wasnt. time is not fixed but relative. slow to you is not slow to me.

    i liked your review but it seems your took the film for what you wanted it to be.. which technically is always bad coz you never really predicted what happens until you watch the whole thing.

    it had problems yes.. but that's what it was.