Drug dealer's life after death

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Enter the Void (R). Director: Gaspar Noé . Starring: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander. Runnint time: 137 minutes

Enter the VoidThe queue to get into the Melbourne International Film Festival screening ran halfway around the block. When the doors opened we jammed into the outsized theatre. The opening credits hit like neon a stun-gun: words and colours strobing to a heavy beat. Then, the name of the filmmaker, GASPAR NOÉ, in neon letters two storeys tall.

This was an iconoclast announcing his awaited return, and he was greeted with applause. But noone really knew what he had in store. Enter the Void is not like anything we had seen before. Exploitation cinema taken to its arthouse extreme. A debauched masterwork from a controversial genius. That night at MIFF, the mood soured slowly but surely.

The first part of the film portrays a night in the life of fledgling Tokyo-based American drug dealer Oscar (Nathaniel Brown). Noé places us inside Oscar's head, so we watch events unfold from his perspective.

Oscar trips on drugs, is roused by a phone call from client Victor (Alexander), then walks through a hell of grime and neon towards their rendezvous. En route, fellow druggie Alex (Roy) offers him a précis of The Tibetan Book of the Dead: this monologue lays the film's thematic bed.

At his destination, Oscar is murdered.

The remainder of the film consists of two strands. In one, we follow Oscar through a disjointed series of memories: childhood innocence; the death of his parents; a pact made with his sister that they will never be apart; their anguished separation by welfare officers; their eventual reunion in Tokyo.

These scenes are woven into an exposition of the present-day experiences of those who knew Oscar, viewed by Oscar's disembodied self as he hovers above them. This is the film's most innovative element, a bird's eye view of the action concerning Alex, Victor, and Oscar's sister Linda (de la Huerta), who is working as a stripper and a prostitute.

It transitions between scenes by panning rapidly from one location to the next, streets and buildings blurring; by passing through walls or impossibly small spaces, or in and out of flames and other sources of light. Technically, the film is a magnificent.

But be aware that this is a dream project for the provocateur Noé, built on the back of his brutally nihilistic 2002 arthouse hit Irreversible. That film's bête noire was a nine-minute anal rape scene. In Enter the Void Noé takes provocation from dubious to ridiculous, as if he must strive to outdo himself at every turn.

It's not enough to show a teenage girl undergoing an abortion; moments later we return to leer at the discarded foetus. The film's most shocking image, of the aftermath of the car accident that killed Oscar's parents, recurs , with increasing attention to detail. Noé concludes a montage of pornographic images by placing his audience within one woman's loins, in the path of a lunging phallus and a spray of ejaculate.

These are the worst atrocities of Noé's theatre of cruelty. To an extent, they serve the story. They reflect the preoccupations of a protagonist unrestrained by physical revulsion. They evoke a nightmare world defined by sex and violence, where there is not much difference between the two. The above mentioned (ahem) climax is the catalyst for a bittersweet resolution to Oscar's quest for reunion with Linda.

Still, this is less a film to be enjoyed than an experience to be endured. Noé's vision is profound but utterly bleak. The gruelling running time means even the innovative camerawork becomes tired and repetitive (note: the Australian theatrical cut is some 20 minutes shorter than the reviewed festival cut).

At the MIFF screening there was, at the conclusion, a second round of applause, this one laced with derisive hollers and sighs of relief. As we staggered out into the evening's relief, I turned to my companion and said the only thing that could be said after a movie like this.

'At least it wasn't in 3-D.' 

 


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. He is a contributor to Inside Film and The Big Issue magazines, and his articles and reviews have appeared in Melbourne's The Age and Brisbane's Courier-Mail

Topic tags: Enter the Void, Gaspar Noé, Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander

 

 

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Existing comments

How disgusting is this 'film'? No true Catholic should ever view a film of such depravity. I find it unbelievable that anyone would wish to view such filth.

Perversion and pornography have become mainstream "entertainment.' All in the name of so-called 'Art'. It is pure evil!

It is a Mortal sin to attend a movie such as this one. So many souls, with no personal horror of grevious sin against God, will be lost to Hell.
Trent | 02 December 2010


How disgusting is this 'film'? No true Catholic should ever view a film of such depravity. I find it unbelievable that anyone would wish to view such filth.

Perversion and pornography have become mainstream "entertainment.' All in the name of so-called 'Art'. It is pure evil!

It is a Mortal sin to attend a movie such as this one. So many souls, with no personal horror of grevious sin against God, will be lost to Hell.
Trent | 03 December 2010


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