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Drug dealer's life after death

  • 02 December 2010

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

The 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