Tag Archives: enter the void

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.

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Enter the Void – Review

25 Sep

There are plenty of movies out there that are completely unique and provide the viewer with a different sort of experience. This is normally done through narrative tricks or special visual effects to really separate itself from other movies. In my opinion, there has never been a film as different and inventive than Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, a film that he calls a “psychedelic melodrama” that seems to defy all conventions of film making and takes a different approach at an art form that seems to have seen it all.

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Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a small time drug dealer and junkie who lives in Tokyo and mingles with the other assorted junkies and dealers. He shares an apartment with his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), and shares a very special connection with her. One night, after trying to complete a deal with an old friend, the police burst in and shoot Oscar. What follows is Oscar’s consciousness or soul leaving his body and flying over the neon world of Tokyo, examining his past, and observing the lives of others that have been affected by his death with the ultimate goal of achieving some sort of resurrection.

The way Gaspar Noé tells the story in Enter the Void is unlike anything I have ever seen. The movie’s psychedelic mayhem begins right with the opening titles that shock the viewers mind like a defibrillator. Once the titles end, it is strangely calm and the next odd choice by Noé is to have the first half hour completely in a first person POV of Oscar. After he is shot, we travel with him out of his body to experience his life flashing before our eyes and also see the effects of his own death. In this way, the film is still first person, but it’s a strange trip flying over the neon hell of Tokyo.

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Where a lot of film makers use CGI as a crutch and a tool to draw in audiences to see spectacular things, the CGI in Enter the Void is for a much more visceral experience. A large part of the story is the usage and effects of a drug/chemical called DMT, which is released by the brain en masse to a dying individual or to the user of the street drug. The effects of this is a vibrant, colorful visual experience which is recreated with the sights and sounds of Enter the Void. As a result, this is a very colorful movie at times, only to be momentarily defeated by the grime and darkness of the deepest alleys of Tokyo. It’s a beautiful contrast, but certainly not the only unbelievable part of this film.

Fortunately, this Noé did not rely on visuals alone to make this movie compelling. The story and theme of the whole things made me revert into my own psyche and think about everything I believe is to be possible after we die. The thought of death is frightening, to simply not exist anymore, and there are so many thoughts as to what happens after our life ends. In Enter the Void, we are presented with one of the thoughts and is put on screen. It’s hallucinatory and even though the themes might be beyond our understanding, it’s still a deeply personal journey.

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This movie has polarized audiences since it was shown on the festival circuit, and was hurt a little after it’s poor box office return. This isn’t a mindless piece of entertainment. It is an art film through and through that really makes you think. I know I say that a lot, but it’s been about a week since I watched this and it’s still fresh in my mind. I can not recommend Enter the Void enough.