Thursday, 2 December 2010


I don't know how many films you need to see by a particular director to know that you're not likely to be a fan. At a guess I'd imagine the rule of thumb to be four or five - enough to minimise the probability that you've just chanced upon his/her worst offerings. If your first Hitchcocks were Family Plot and The Secret Agent you might well wonder what all the fuss was about and so never know the great movies in between. Or if your initiation into Argento was Giallo or Mother Of Tears, chances are you'd strike Tenebrae and Suspiria off the list because you're not going through all that again.

On the other hand, sometimes you can have a very strong feeling first time out: my introduction to Gaspar Noe was Irreversible, which I thought was a horrible, depressing and thoroughly ugly film. Well, he's back with Enter The Void, and saying it's not as repugnant as Irreversible isn't saying anything. A drug dealer gets killed in Tokyo but hovers around afterwards as a kind of out-of-body astral projection, firstly reliving the key moments from his life, and then watching the fallout from his murder, and keeping an eye on his beloved (perhaps too beloved) sister, before being reborn in a frankly ludicrous way.

The first act is all POV, including the blinking: seen through the eyes of our druggie "hero" in the hours before his justifiably undignified death on the floor of a pub toilet. The second is a montage of isolated clips from the guy's childhood, his sister, the deaths of their parents in a car smash, his business in Japan: all filmed from a few feet behind him so every shot has the back of his head in it. And the third, the drifty spirit-view, floats all around Tokyo an extreme length and shot in such a way that triggers motion sickness in the viewer. The cityscapes are either filmed on a massive but incredibly detailed model, or over the real city but through that kind of lens that makes things look very small. Or they're done on the computer. Whatever, the camera swoops, soars, plummets and wavers all over the place: everything's enhanced with bright neon hightlights and strobing lights and backed with a throbbing noise score. Early on there's a long CGI drug trip sequence which is very pretty but just looks like a Windows screensaver.

I can't recall having looked away from a film so much while it's on. If someone made a film about people who eat live spiders while knifing themselves in the goolies I'd probably have an easier time of it. Here are the three things you need to get through Enter The Void with maximum impact: [1] a front-row seat, [2] drugs, [3] a bucket. A better option is, in truth, not bothering with the movie at all, because it will make you feel ill. I felt queasy and I was about eight rows from the front. And it goes on, and on, and on.... This despite the fact that the UK release version is actually substantially shorter than other territories - the distributors resubmitted the film with a whole reel missing. Not a reel's worth of cuts throughout the film: Reel 7 of 9 has been dropped entirely. Could this be European arthouse cinema's most contrived Star Trek injoke? Enter The Void is eighteen minutes shorter as a result but it still takes 143 minutes to get through. (It would take 137 minutes if they'd followed Gaspar Noe's instruction to show the film at 25 fps - video speed - but this was a 35mm print.)

This is also one of those movies that "contains strong real sex" and I really can't get excited about this as a content warning: shagging is not a spectator sport and I don't want to watch it any more than I want to watch people taking a dump. Yes, it happens but that's no reason to put it on film and claim that it's art. It isn't. Personally, if you do want to see real people really having real sex, watch a porn movie. Or you can probably find this kind of thing on the internet somewhere. There is indeed explicit material in Enter The Void but it's actually fairly brief and doesn't achieve anything.

Alright, some of the visuals are striking. But it's a two-and-a-half-hour arthouse movie with a fragmented narrative, nausea-inducing camerawork, strobing, an annoying electro-noise soundtrack, a ridiculous ending, lots of references to The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, subliminal and unreadable opening credits, no end credits, a few brief bits of sex and a cast of characters who are either drug addicts, dealers, or strippers that's not quite as offputting as one of the most loathsome films of modern times. Whoopee.


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