Originally written for:
Directed by Gaspar Noé
Written by Gaspar Noé
Master provocateur Gaspar Noé was sure to let the world be aware that he wasn’t intending on holding back with his newest film, with several NSFW posters floating around the internet before the film’s release. I’m not sure if they ever existed as actual posters advertising the film, as they are for the most part extremely graphic: one depicting a gooey fist clenching a rock hard boner. Whatever the case, Noé had people talking about his new effort long before it actually hit theatres.
At the beginning of the film, American filmmaker Murphy is in a relationship and feels trapped. Living with a woman is like living with the CIA, he muses. Nothing is secret. Through internal monologue we learn just how unhappy Murphy is, and after a phone call from his past, we begin to explore a past relationship between Murphy and his French girlfriend, Electra. Noé toys with different time-lines again and does it well.
Electra is willing to explore sexually, which initially leads to the couple having some fun with their new cute neighbour, Omi. But it doesn’t stop here; as the couple explore sexual boundaries and what their love really means, their relationship becomes frail and disjointed. What began as a way to get closer to one another is in truth driving them apart.
Murphy remarks at one point that his biggest dream in life is to make a movie that truly depicts sentimental sexuality. However his dream is just that – a fantasy – as within this film we explore all the dark corners of love and what can result from a truly broken heart. Emotions so powerful that events linger as permanent and powerful memories, or can cause a person to act completely out of character. The film portrays the complexity and potential dangers of high-powered sexuality and love extremely well, and as a whole this was a love story that I enjoyed – not something that I say very often.
Unfortunately, there a few major issues that prevent this story from truly resonating.
Perhaps the most important fact is that for a film almost dedicated to full-bore sex scenes, name-actors are out of the question. Realistically, who could Noé have used other than non-professionals? Karl Glusman, playing Murphy, had a small amount of experience, but the girls playing Electra and Omi are both new to acting. This all-round lack of acting experience hurts the film, as the characters either under-act or over-act, rarely hitting the target.
In addition to this, we have a very dull and lifeless script. There are a few memorable moments, but these are sandwiched between awkwardly delivered lines that defy the possibilities offered by the overall story. It is disappointing, and some of the dialogue is cringe-inducing:
“Maybe we are not the great artists that we dreamed of. Maybe this is all just shit” is one example of an extremely underwhelming way to make a decent point. There is also a lot of internal monologue, most of which consists of Murphy complaining about his life.
Despite some experience, Karl Glusman as Murphy, is the worst one here, though this is almost certainly due to the fact that he is on screen for almost the entire film. He tries his best with the provocative material he is given, but his character felt as colourful as a black hole. In fact, there isn’t much to distinguish Murphy from Oscar, the main character from Noé’s last film. The two girls also feel very two-dimensional and forgettable, which isn’t surprising given they were working with a rather dismal script and had no prior acting experience.
This lack of powerful acting means that, apart from a couple of key scenes, all the sexual encounters and orgies that we see don’t advance the story in any way and don’t convey the honest emotions they are trying to. They are just… there, in the background. Lots and lots of screwing. How this thing remains under an ‘R’ rating I will never know.
Yes, Gaspar’s colourful visual style is here to be seen and these sexual encounters aren’t as repetitive as they could have been, but c’mon, I’m not watching this movie to watch porn, and most of these scenes seem there just to push boundaries. The almost total lack of charisma among the three characters doesn’t help any of this. And may I thank God that I didn’t see a 3D session of this film, as it of course has an obligatory vertically shot ejaculation scene, spewing its load all over the screen.
Love certainly has Gaspar’s fingerprints all over it, from the blink to black transitions that allow him to toy with the timeline seamlessly, to the ‘Love Hotel’ from Enter The Void sitting in Murphy’s apartment. Overall, I must admit I’m not entirely sure what to make of it all. Even though it has countless sex scenes and orgies that don’t serve much purpose, the narrative about finding true love and then losing it, exploring the darkest recesses of love and sexuality… it fascinated me. And as I have said numerous times, the French are great at this sort of thing. It is great to see a film exploring the concept of love in such a unique and dark way, as opposed to most films allegedly about love. But, it ultimately is riddled with too many flaws. I really enjoyed Enter The Void and Irreversible, but this, despite the PR campaign and all of the sex… it somehow feels tame in comparison.