I’m of the view that Gaspar Noé’s 2001 movie Irreversible is nothing more than an exercise in shallow self-indulgence. It’s a cruel film whose real victim is the audience. I confess I skipped the French-Argentinian’s last film Enter the Void, though many I respect recommended it. It sits bookmarked on Netflix, just in case. When Love was offered as a preview screening with 3D, I went with an open mind. After all, Noé allegedly improved with Enter the Void. Ugh, what a mistake.
Love was an arduous experience. It follows a 20-something aspiring filmmaker from the U.S., Murphy (Karl Glusman), who has decorated his bedroom in Paris with cliché posters of classic movies like Birth of a Nation. Based on an opening internal monologue where Murphy spends as much time complaining about having to wake up in the morning as he does wondering where his lost love has gone, Murphy comes across as a shallow young man that can’t seem to get over his own interest in his own banal discomfort. It’s no wonder he never seems to genuinely connect with the two women in his life, the dark-haired, unstable drug-addicted Electra (Aomi Muyock) and the blonde Omi (Klara Kristin), the mother of his unintended toddler son Gaspar (Ugo Fox). If the implication is that he named the boy after the movie’s director the red flag is up. This dude is as shallow, lost and full of himself as the director.
One would hope a filmmaker like Noé would find some inspiration in presenting the film’s hardcore sex scenes in 3D, but Noé and his usual cinematographer Benoît Debie can hardly seem to decide what to do with them beyond the obvious (a scene of ejaculation that arrives way too late in the movie). Even worse, the third dimension did something I hardly see in a 3D movie: it made the film feel flatter. It’s so self-conscious in staging depth — like shots through an open window and a neatly framed walk-and-talk through a park — that it looked as if the film was completely shot in a studio. Ironically, the film’s bland look does more to push the viewer away than pull them in.
Despite the weak cinematography, the backgrounds were sometimes still more interesting to watch than the actors. The acting was atrocious. The only decent moments came from Muyock’s sometimes aloof and natural sensuality, which spoke will to her character as an idealized woman. Harsh cuts within the dialogue speaks to the weak performances that deliver Noé’s already stilted writing with little nuance or even feeling for the words. Speaking of editing, this film needed some trimming in its painful dialogue scenes and its more atrocious monologues. Noé doesn’t seem to understand the concept of less is more, giving the viewer too much of the same and going nowhere with it. Even the countless sex scenes felt redundant. The best of these scenes involved the seduction of Omi by Murphy and Electra. It served as a genuinely complex sensual moment that would complicate their relationship royally. As such, it was the only sex scene that genuinely mattered.
There’s only one good thing I could say about this movie: Noé accurately captures the frustrating yet mysterious allure of the opposite sex from the perspective of a man who has yet to mature mentally. But the underdeveloped mind of 20-something male is hardly worth sitting through for as long as this movie drones on for. Though Love runs two hours and fifteen minutes, it felt like three hours. I even considered walking out a couple of times, something I hardly ever do. I held out hope. The film meandered through one sex scene after another, jumping chaotically through time with implausible character developments. In the end, all I could take away from this is that Love is nothing more than the literal representation of a filmmaker too involved with himself to make a remotely interesting movie.
Love runs 134 minutes and is not rated (expect lots of hardcore sex, though). It’s now playing in our South Florida area at the Bill Cosford Cinema and at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. For screening dates in other cities or to order it on demand at home, visit this link. The Cosford Cinema hosted a preview screening in 3D for the purpose of this review. All images in this post are courtesy of Alchemy.