Tag Archives: disturbing

Irréversible – Review

2 Oct

Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are again back with that crazy guy Gaspar Noé. It hasn’t been too long since I’ve last reviewed something by this director, but I’ll do a little refresher. His first feature I Stand Alone  and the short film that preceded it, Carne, were pieces of visceral art that are definitely not for the feint of heart. The same can be said of his 2009 trip down a nightmarish rabbit hole, Enter the Void. Now, however, it’s time to look at his notorious film that was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and made him more known internationally, Irréversible. Like his other films, this is difficult to watch, but unlike his other films, it’s so difficult that at times I found it almost unwatchable. While it is graphic, disturbing, and all too brutal it certainly isn’t trash. Just insanely difficult.

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Much like Christopher Nolan’s film Memento, the action in Irréversible happen in reverse chronological order. Alex (Monica Belluci) and Marcus (Vincent Cassel) are a couple who are going to a party with Alex’s old friend, Pierre (Albert Dupontel). The three are having a fine time until Alex, annoyed with Marcus’ intoxication leaves the party. On her way home, she is brutally attacked and raped by a man known as Le Tenia (Jo Prestia), and is soon found by Pierre and Marcus. Marcus then drags Pierre through the underworld of Paris to find where Le Tenia is and get revenge for what he did to Alex and potentially ruining her life and the lives of the three friends.

To get an idea of the intensity of this movie for all those who haven’t seen it, Newsweek called Irréversible the most walked out of movie of the year. People were even leaving during the Cannes Film Festival. Imagine that, people walking out of a movie that was nominated for the festival’s most prestigious prize. It is quite clear that Noé did this on purpose with a lot of fancy film making and editing. The first thing that I noticed was how the camera flew all over the place, following all the action seamlessly, and edited all together to create the illusion of really long takes. He used this same style again in Enter the Void. The camera flies in and out of cars, flips, spins, etc. As if that’s not disorienting enough, the first 30 minutes or so of the movie as a continuous 28Hz droning that actually has a physical effect on humans that make us feel uncomfortable or even sick.

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A lot of credit has to go to the people that were involved in helping Noé’s vision, disturbing as it is, to the screen. Rodolphe Chabrier had what seemed like a really tedious job as this film’s visual effects supervisor. It was his job to fix up all of the crazy, illusory long takes and make the camera look like it’s doing all of the acrobatics almost naturally. There’s a lot more visual effects in this movie than it may seem on the surface, but there were many scenes that had to be cleaned and other actions tweaked. Much props also go to Belluci, Cassel, and Dupontel. Cassel has this intense approach to his acting when appropriate and is menacing for part of this movie, while Dupontel works well as the more hesitant of the two. They work very well off each other and give commendable performances even during the quieter scenes. Belluci deserves more praise than most actresses for stepping up to the challenge of this role and also performing it in such a realistic way. The brutal attack scene is made all the more difficult by how outstanding her ability to act really is.

I may have talked about this before, but it’s something that gets me heated. Many people have condemned Irréversible as trash taken to the most extreme. They seem to be implying that there is no room for films that are disturbing or graphic or show something that makes people uncomfortable and angry. Movies are supposed to stir emotions, be they good or bad, and the worst movies are the one that leave the viewer feeling nothing in particular. Yes, this movie made me feel very uncomfortable and close to physically ill, but that’s good. The movie did what it was supposed to do. There are many films that are graphic and disturbing and are most certainly just trashy entertainment. There is nothing trashy in this film, just brutally realistic and gritty.

I’m not going to recommend Irréversible, because I feel like there are many people out there who may read this review and not be able to sit through this movie. Normally, I think people should try movies like this out and do their best to push through it, but even I had trouble with the intensity and unflinching vision of this movie. It is extremely well made and acted, once again showing that Gaspar Noé is one of the most under appreciated director working today, while definitely remaining one of the most controversial. Irréversible is gritty, brutal art that should be considered as such, but should never be referred to as trashy.

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I Stand Alone – Review

4 Sep

Gaspar Noé is a film makers who is known for making movies that shock and otherwise make people relatively uncomfortable. Noé’s film making should not be misunderstood, however, as his filmography is comprised of movies that are shocking, yes, but certainly not stupid nor trashy. My previous experience with this director can pretty much be described as mind melting, with his 2009 film Enter the Void. Before taking a look at his first feature film, I Stand Alone, I had to also watch his short film that starts the story, Carne. As I expected, these two movies shocked the hell out of me, but they also made me think… a lot.

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A man only known as the Butcher (Philippe Nahon) lives in Paris making a living selling horse meat, and in the mean time, taking care of his autistic daughter, Cynthia (Blandine Lenoir). The relationship with his daughter is creepy and complicated, but is pushed to the limit after he severely injures someone that he believes raped her. After being thrown in prison and losing his shop, the Butcher begins dating a barista (Frankye Pain) who soon becomes pregnant and takes him to live with her mother (Martine Audrain) in northern France. Life for the Butcher soon becomes one big and continuous disappointment which leads him to violently leave again for Paris to start life once again. This seems next to impossible when he is faced with constant rejection from friends and employers leading the Butcher to sink deeper and deeper into his own twisted psychology.

The parts of that summary that involve the Butcher injuring the man and getting thrown in prison only to marry the barista is actually mainly told in Noé’s short film from 1991, Carne. To briefly talk about that film, it left me feeling very strange. The way that it’s shot, including the no nonsense scenes of a horse being killed in a slaughterhouse to seeing a child being born in all of its icky glory, really make you feel like you’re watching the work of someone who has a vision and will not let it be compromised. Other than those scenes, which mainly only happen in the beginning, this isn’t a disturbing film in the way you would think. The way the characters behave and the way that they live is uncomfortable enough. This is a great short film that has a worthy successor in I Stand Alone.

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So take everything that was great in Carne, and make it a little bit longer, and you’ve got I Stand Alone. This isn’t saying that watching this film was too similar to his previous short film. What I’m saying is that Noé maintained the style and strange intensity that made his short film so good. This is probably one of the most cynical movies I have ever seen, and although it can be overbearing at times, it’s such an interesting trip inside the head of a quiet psycho who you could easily pass yourself walking down the street one day. I’ve seen a few critics compare this movie to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, and I can understand why. It has that kind of wandering feeling that’s also very French, which makes sense, this being a French production. It also has that same feeling of imminent danger, that this person can crack at any second and the outcome could very well be deadly.

The style also holds up in the transition from short film to feature film. The way this film is shot and edited is very unique and made me all giddy watching how strange it was. My favorite trick that Noé would do to make sure we’re really paying attention is a crazy kinetic dolly or pan movement accompanied by an obnoxiously loud noise. While it’s cool, it also is a cool way to visualize the instability of the Butcher’s mind. There’s also moments where the image will black out or jump cut with a low note cuing the action. This actually was kind of funny and an interesting way to edit the movie. Finally, there’s actually a 30 second warning before the gut wrenching climax warning the viewer that if they feel like they can’t sit through it, now would be a good time to stop watching the movie. This feels a little gimmicky since I was watching it on DVD, but it must have been odd to see sitting in a theater watching the movie. I’ve never seen something like that in any other movie. Like I said, I Stand Alone has a very unique style.

Speaking for both Carne and I Stand Alone, I was really affected by them. Both of these films are difficult to sit through and stomaching the content may not happen too easily (or at all), but these are movies that will leave you wondering about the characters and might even get you thinking about the truth of the world. I don’t believe that Gaspar Noé was trying to say anything with the heavy handed political and societal thoughts of the Butcher, which are made clear in long monologues throughout the films. I believe these thoughts are to allow us to sink deeper into the Butcher’s twisted mind. This is a movie about a man trapped in society and the loneliness and betrayal that he may wrongfully feel. These films are sick, stylish, and are going to stay in my mind for quite some time… which is a little unsettling.