Those bastards who were lucky enough to be out in Cannes last week got to see yet another new film that I’m hankering to scope: Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void. If his name doesn’t register, we must remedy that. Gaspar Noe is by far one of the most fearless and innovative filmmakers working today, a French guy packing one seriously left-thinking, limit-pushing mind. I’ve yet to see his debut, 1991’s Carne, but his two subsequent flicks are both wonderfully unique. 1998’s I Stand Alone brings an already-fucked-up character study into an interactive dungeon with a late-game “warning” to viewers that shit is about to derail off the deep end, and it sure does. And then there’s 2002’s peerless Irreverisible, an emotional and sensory whiplash that does the “backwards narrative” approach even better than Memento.
With Enter the Void, his first film in seven years, it seems that Noe has really outdone himself, at least in the sense that he’s undeniably made a film unlike anything else in the market. The reviews from Cannes are unsurprisingly mixed, but all point out how forward-thinking and important the film is, despite a grueling time-length and an overall endurance test that may only work on avid cinema buffs.
Which is why I’d have sex with Mo’nique tonight, without any pre-bedroom liquor sipping, to see Enter the Void tomorrow night. [Reviews and more after the jump]
The great Manohla Dargis of the New York Times checked in with a review/Enter the Void feature, which includes this:
“The last time the French director Gaspar Noé was in the Cannes Film Festival, in 2002, it felt as if a hurricane were approaching. The word in the festival halls was that his “Irrevérsible” included a scene with a nine-minute rape, news that seemed to excite some attendees. As it happens, though the buildup is interminable, the assault is briefer. I know because when I saw the film again for review, I timed it since I wanted something to think about besides the sights and sounds of a woman being brutalized: it was my way of resisting Mr. Noé’s obvious interest in assaulting his audience.
Although he remains dedicated to shaking up viewers, to getting under their skins and into their nervous systems, Mr. Noé has mellowed. Despite its unpromising title, “Enter the Void,” his entry at this year’s festival, is an exceptional work, though less because of its story, acting or any of the usual critical markers. What largely distinguishes it, beyond the stunning cinematography, is that this is the work of an artist who’s trying to show us something we haven’t seen before, even while he liberally samples images and ideas from Stanley Kubrick and the entirety of American avant-garde cinema. The grungy milieu and calculated shocks might have been designed to make you flee — even while your attention is tethered to the camera — but, really, these aren’t the point. The point is the filmmaking.”
Gaspar Noe doing his best Stanley Kubrick interpretation? Sounds like a dynamo match. Word is that Enter the Void was heavily inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a bit of information that fits like a new suit next to this Enter the Void image:
Next on the menu is The Wrap’s Eric Kohn, who singles out a Noe tactic that falls right in line with that “warning” from I Stand Alone:
“Noé has a reputation for chuning out difficult and often quite violent stories, but it seemed like an especially telling sign that the audience was in for something rather intense when, after bowing for the audience, the two child actors left the theater.
There are many reasons why “Enter the Void” is not family fare, but it’s not for other audience types, either. Noé has somewhat overextended ambitions,
even without considering the heavily explicit nature of the content.
The movie initially takes place in first person, as we watch the perspective of a Tokyo-based drug dealer while he gets high, trips out and heads to a local bar. After an abrupt series of circumstances, the guy winds up dead, and that’s when things get really weird. Having established views on the afterlife from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Noé attempts to express them. The character’s mind drifts around, allowing him to witness the aftermath of his demise from above.
Much like the idea behind the movie, watching “Void” is a serious headtrip. Noé uses color patterns and other digital effects to replicate his dead protagonist’s increasingly abstract vision, an effect that’s fun to watch for about 20 minutes, but grows tiring after a while.
With a two-and-a-half hour running time, “Void” covers all its bases and then some. Things seem to be wrapping up at the 90-minute mark, and then keep going … and going … and going, before a hilariously obscene climax in which the character gets reincarnated in his sisters womb. As his spirit travels to her womb prior to his conception, we actually witness a penis entering the birth canal from the inside. Well, it’s a first, I think.
Then Noé drops one final trick. The screen went completely black for a good minute or so, which led Palais audiences to think it had ended. Droves of people headed to the door as a mixture of boos and claps echoed throughout the room.
Then, suddenly, the movie came back to life as the perspective of a newborn baby appeared onscreen. And that was that.”
Last to bat, Screen Daily‘s Mike Goodridge:
“Almost defying definition in contemporary cinematic terms, Gaspar Noe’s third feature film Enter The Void is a wild, hallucinatory mindfuck for adults which sees the director explore new shooting techniques and ambitious special effects to capture a young man’s journey after death. More experience than narrative, it runs to a massive 163 minutes, meandering and careening in and out of story and into visual realms and moods that are nothing short of hypnotic. It is a film that will instantly achieve cult status among young adults. If audiences care to, they can lose themselves in Noe’s images and trip on his imagination. If they don’t, they will be bored to tears…….As the film enters its third hour, the plot goes out of focus as the film starts to explore sexuality and the creation of new life. A lengthy final sequence tracks couples having sex in Love Hotel (a studio creation based on the Japanese concept of love hotels) and new life is created. Indeed Noe actually shows us the penis ejaculating into the vagina in full frame glory.”
There’s nothing much I can add after “Noe actually shows us the penis ejaculating into the vagina in full frame glory.” Other than, Enter the Void is guaranteed to blow my mind, whenever the hell I get to see it.