CANNES, France – The Croisette has been awash in semen since the midnight premiere screening of the new Gaspar Noé film LOVE. The director of ENTER THE VOID and I STAND ALONE said during a sparsely-attended press conference today that he submitted the film to fest a week after the April selection announcement.
That this was going to be in 3D was a mystery, even to the filmmaker. Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch (one of the film’s co-producers) had told him “you should get into 3D” after the success of James Cameron’s AVATAR. What started as a joke between them gained traction and eventually became reality.
Shooting on a very small budget in Paris with a small 3D camera Noé takes us on an up-close-and-personal journey into the romantic mores of young adults, namely, Elektra, Murphy and Omi (all of whom were played by non-actors).
Noé professed a disdain (or just lack of interest) for using professional casting specialists, preferring instead to point and pick potential actors at parties and clubs. So lower your expectations, please. The performances in this movie aren’t going to win anyone over. The lines that are spoken (croaked?) by these cigarette-smoking characters hem closely to reality. Serviceable dialogue assists the characters in falling in and out of the various dramatic situations, arguments and strenuous, full-frontal lovemaking. Actually, not much talking during sex, thankfully.
Murphy gets with Elektra and they are happy together, fucking and sucking their way into oblivion. When Omi moves in next door, they enlarge the circle of trust, she crawls into their bed. Before long, Omi and Murphy are at it together, Omi gets pregnant and Elektra hits the road. That’s about the entirety of the film’s storyline.
Later in the day I spoke to an astounded Xavier Leherpeur (we’re roommates), defending LOVE. It looks like no other movie ever made that’s been to the Cannes Festival (points for chutzpah), it’s stylistically-coherent with Noé’s previous films (in other words, here again you penetrate into Noé-world): the clicking black fade-outs to mark beats in the action, following his characters from behind, switching the lighting in the same scene, characters who go on total hysterical rage-fests (you’ll remember Vincent Cassel’s character going totally berserker in 2002’s IRREVERSIBLE). In LOVE the violence erupts during several of the more memorable lovers’ spats.
Noé cannot be accused of answering to the whims of any target audience, producer or financier. Here’s a guy who takes egocentrism to dizzying new heights, and I find that compelling (I can forgive most character flaws when it comes to artists–doesn’t mean I’ll invite them into my home, however).
Perhaps the director’s hubris is what won me over.
During the press conference Noé interestingly remarked that our memories of romantic sentiment remain while the thought of previous sexual experiences recedes completely eventually. “Why should we relegate sex to the closet? I did not make a movie about Swiss banks, I made a movie about love.”
His insistence on showing explicit, unsimulated sex acts (people talk about the Cannes Festival’s first porno, I would qualify LOVE as being an erotic film) seems well-placed. But why not make such a film, I say? And if you can pepper the sex scenes (you will get to see the entire Western repertoire of sexual positions by watching this film) with a little humor, as Noé does, then all the better. He creates anticipation laughably around the film (and this festival’s) most memorable scene, a semen shot right at the audience in 3D, rather like a cannonball being catapulted across the milky way.
Noé makes a none-too-subtle cameo as an art gallery owner (he wears a wig) and even Maraval is in on the act, playing a cop who later ends up in one of Paris’s infamous sex clubs. As my Cannes partner asked me this year, “do they really have those in Paris? Yes, they really have those in Paris, and I believe Gaspar Noé knows a few of them well.”
Noé made two too-obvious attempts at linking himself with his mentor, Werner Rainer Fassbinder. When Murphy and Elektra bring home a she-male who attempts to seduce an increasingly-agitated Murphy, Elektra whispers in his ear encouragements of, “fear eats the soul, fear eat the soul.”
Later at a party, Murphy is wearing the famous Fassbinder logo that looks like Metallica’s and which I’ve seen Noé wear in press photos. Dear Gaspar: you’re no Fassbinder. Fassbinder is Fassbinder, and you are Gaspar Noé. But if you wanted to play the association game, I’d throw Harmony Korine and Larry Clark in the mix, first.
On the downside, Noé could cast better actors (even if that means showing less on-screen action by more scrupulous professional actors) and fatten up the dialogues a little. This latest movie, which is a joy to watch, would benefit from it. But you don’t gravitate towards his film for either the dialogues or the acting. It’s this world he creates, suspended somewhere between reality and insanity, a demimonde of hedonism and violence that sends a jolt, or a shiver, down your spine and makes you sit up.
According to Maraval during this morning’s press conference, the film has been sold to over seventy countries already and will be seen in New York and L.A. theaters.