You’d think me achieving a huge personal goal of mine today would be a total victory, but, alas, no dice. Earlier, I picked up my first-ever all-access press pass for a major film festival, in this case the now-beginning 2009 edition of the annual New York Film Festival. I’ll be covering a slew of its films for Critics Notebook over the next few weeks, and I’m damn stoked.
Why am I not totally satisfied, then? Because, Gaspar Noe‘s Enter the Void just played at the Toronto Film Festival, and I was not present. There was no chance in hell that I would’ve been by any stretch of the imagination, really, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pout like a small female dog. Especially when the A.V. Club’s reaction is that Enter the Void is basically a 155-minute expansion of the dizzying, brain-pulverizing La Rectum sequence in Noe’s astonishing Irreversible (2002). My head hurt before my fascination and excitement tipped the scales while being subjected to that the first time I experienced Irreversible, and I regularly revisit the sequence courtesy of DVD. Everything about it is exceptionally brave and taut.
Making my itchy-and-scratchy desire to see Enter the Void all the more insatiable. After the jump, a sampling of that Irreversible La Rectum extravaganza, as well as the A.V. Club write-up in its entirety:
Here’s A.V. Club’s critic Scott Tobias with exact insight:
If you’ve seen Noé’s Irreversible and you’re not jaded beyond all human comprehension, you’ll remember the sick feeling of that long opening descent in “Le Rectum,” as a swirling camera follows two men down, down, down into a pit of depravity. It’s physically one of the toughest sequences I’ve ever had to sit through, and the Cannes audience at its notorious premiere screening started filing out en masse. With that in mind, who could have guessed that the “Le Rectum” sequence would be mere prelude to Noé’s follow-up feature, an acid-soaked phantasmagoria that employs the same first-person, tilt-a-whirl camera technique for a full 155 minutes? As a formal achievement, Enter The Void goes further out on a limb than anything I’ve seen at this festival, and even Noé-haters (and they are legion) have to admire the go-for-broke audacity of such a relentless assault on the senses. Yet while the film is disorienting and intense—and at our screening, was explicitly not recommended to epileptics—it’s also hypnotic and immersive, a trance-like experience that feeds the shimmering neons of Tokyo at night into a hallucinogenic headtrip. (No distributor has stepped up for a whole host of reasons, but I could see the drug-addled midnight audiences of today embracing it in the same way cult audiences of yesteryear embraced El Topo or Liquid Sky.) Sadly, Noé’s technical wizardry far outpaces his oft-inane scenario, which concerns a fucked-up drug dealer (Nathaniel Brown) who tries to reconnect with his equally fucked-up sister (Paz de la Huerta), but his stupidity gets in the way. Noé cribs from sources as varied as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Tibetan Book Of The Deadto lend significance to the lives of young people cast adrift, but they’re fundamentally unworthy of it. (Important note: I’m not writing off the film as a vacuous stylistic exercise just yet, however. It’s really hard to process on a single viewing.) There’s no question that many people will be (and have been) repulsed by Enter The Void, but I pray that Noé converts (or the adventurous in general) will have a chance to experience the film on the largest possible screen. It’s the ne plus ultra of arthouse spectacle. Grade: B+