Published Dec 30, 2010I sometimes have the misfortune of working with a small-time Toronto jazz critic. He scoffs at nearly everything I say. When I told him I'd loved Gaspar Noe's Irréversible, he scoffed, as usual, and likely because of its notorious rape scene, said, in his inimitable haughtiness, "It's just that I've never heard anyone say they loved Irréversible."
This is the difficulty with Gaspar Noe criticism: you can call him provocative, interesting, a shameless opportunist, but you're not allowed to love him unabashedly. To love his work is to be highly sophomoric, akin to considering Donnie Darko or Requiem for a Dream your favourite film. They may be substantial works, but they have been co-opted by the slack-jawed, "this movie is so fucked-up" stoners of society, to the extent that sophisticated audiences are inclined to distance themselves with caveats such as, "It was a fascinating film, but…"
With Enter the Void, Noe's still preaching to the converted: young drug enthusiasts will go batty for this tale, which incorporates au courant hallucinogen DMT, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and all the fluorescent-hued Tokyo drug culture you could want.
A dealer is murdered in the first act, then floats above his stripper sister, watching many a sexual escapade while he waits to be reborn. Gratuitous moments of note include a shot of a penis from the POV of a womb and horrifyingly, the ugliest abortion ever seen on film. But, as provocative and offensive as these elements may sound, they fit within the framework of Noe's vision quite naturally.
It's important to note Enter the Void isn't some experimental challenge way out in the ether — anyone could follow this fairly sentimental story of familial love. But as trippy movies go, it's in an elite class. After the DMT is imbibed, we're treated to several minutes of what psychedelic culture calls CEVs ("closed-eye visuals"), evoking the final pre-motel room moments of Kubrick's 2001.
What makes the film substantial enough to reach beyond the backwards-baseball-hatted among us is the high degree of craftsmanship — even the most hateful critics can't help but admire the technical achievement. Noe spent two-and-a-half years on this film, and it shows. The set design is first-rate and the camerawork peerless. The camera floats naturally while giving the dealer's POV, not in the annoying Cloverdale way that's become old-hat, but so effectively it makes you forget the technique altogether. I've never seen a film so visually arresting.
It is 40 minutes too long, and no doubt tedious if you aren't at least vaguely interested in drug experiences. In this regard, it's unfair that the critical fate of the film rests in the narrow minds of the coffee-fiending, middle-aged press at harried ten a.m. screenings and not its ideal demographic who sit in dorm rooms where the hot knives are heating and the jazz critic would have a coughing, scoffing fit. (eOne)