Paleo Retiree writes:


As a huge fan of the filmmaker Gaspar Noé as well as a partisan of the erotic chamber drama genre, I’m sorry to report that I found Noé’s most recent film — the Paris-set erotic chamber drama “Love,” shot in 3-D — a near-total snoozefest.

In “Irreversible,” Noé told the tale of a rape and a beating as a metaphor for the suicide of Europe. In “Enter the Void,” he took off from “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to evoke the bardo experiences of a young hipster overdosing in today’s Tokyo. They’re rambunctious and exuberant experimental horror movies. Noé is simultaneously a libertine, a voluptuary, a satirist, a druggy and a reactionary — an over-the-top, cosmopolitcan visionary/provocateur who’s also a surprisingly sly, humorous, suave guy. He often reminds me of Céline, Sade, Buñuel and Houellebecq.

In “Love,” though, little seems to go right. The film isn’t a trainwreck — everything in it is consciously chosen and skillfully done. The results just don’t make much of an impact. (Or they didn’t on me.) There are a few moments when the film starts to take hold in the freaky manner of a drug trip; some prankish humor and erotic audacity send out bolts of energy; Noé’s determination to portray sex as a tender and everyday thing is touching and convincing; and his cast of young unknowns (Karl Glusman as an American film student in Paris, Aomi Muyock as his unstable ex girlfriend, and Klara Kristin as a youngster he manages to impregnate) all deserve applause for daring and self-exposure. But generally speaking “Love” is as sober and plain as a late Eric Rohmer film.

Noé wheeled his camera about like a GoPro on acid in “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void”; he seemed determined to push the “camerawork” thing far beyond the usual subjective-or-objective categories. In “Love,” by contrast, he has chosen to keep his camera nearly immobile. It seems, in fact, bolted to a tripod and then nailed down to the floor. Noé also seems fascinated by the tableau-vivant-esque quality that 3-D can impose on onscreen action. Over and over, whether inside or outdoors, we’re presented with what seems to be a 10’x10’x10′ space-box in front of the camera. The people and props within the box have some 3-D qualities, but everything around them feels flat, as though projected onto a green screen. The effect is a little like watching one of those early silent movies that are head-on, static-camera records of theater performances, and the film’s own energy level feels as bolted down as its cameras.

I’ve flailed a bit trying to come up with a reason why I found the film monotonous and dull. Here’s my best shot at an explanation: “Love” is an erotic chamber drama with no psychology — and that’s just very unsatisfying. Noé isn’t a Bergman or a Bertolucci, so fascinated by his characters’ souls that he wants to scrutinize them in minute detail. Instead he’s an ideas kinda guy — as transfixed by philosophical questions as sci-fi authors often are. (He has often talked about what a fan he is of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”) His One Big Idea in “Love” is “meaning.” In scene after scene we’re made to understand that what these young people — with their fucking-around and drama-storms, as they move from apartments to threesomes to sex clubs — are really pursuing is meaning. And that’s it. There’s no unfolding of personality, and there’s no peeling-away-the-layers of character, pleasure, obsession, quirk and drive, which is where the juice of a successful erotic chamber drama tends to come from. And so we’re stuck with an austerity of surface and means without a rich or layered psychological/emotional payoff.

But part of me feels like I’m being unfair, that I’m dissing the movie for not being something it isn’t trying to be. (The first rule for critics: Do your best to grant the artist his premises.) Why shouldn’t Noe try to fuse “Last Tango” and “2001”? While it looks like a fuck-till-you-die chamber drama, Bertolucci’s own “The Dreamers” (recommended) is really a spectacle — a nostalgic celebration of a long-past era. That’s proof you can use the form for nonstandard ends, isn’t it?

Still … nah. I may be committing a critical faux pas, but I’m sticking with my explanation.


About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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