Thursday, February 3, 2011

Enter the Void

The infamous freak out flick that's sparked such passion, outrage and perhaps a few bits of epilepsy, from enfant terrible Gaspar Noe (he of the notorious 2002's backwards rape tragedy Irreversible) is definitely an experience.  The psychedelic movement of the camera, the twisted pretzel shape of the narrative, it's mind boggling, and a bit nauseating at the same time.  Clearly Mr. Noe is a one of a kind filmmaker, but again as with his first major provocation, he seems more intent on shock for shock's taste as opposed to infusing genuine pathos with his crazy, mind altering technique.  Which is not to say I don't urge people to see Enter the Void, it's by turns exhilarating and tedious, a true cinematic feast that will differ in the eyes of their beholder.  This one appears to be less of a traditional type of filmmaker, bur a sensory reaction, that Mr. Noe wants to get his audience high; this is probably the closest cinematic resemblance to what taking mushrooms might feel like (I see that without ever digesting the fungus myself.)  And while addiction isn't so much apart of the subject, being high certainly is.  Enter the Void first alienated\transfixed viewers at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

The 'story" focuses on a young American in Tokyo-- Oscar, played by newcomer Nathaniel Brown.  He's a drug dealer\junkie and the film is shot from his experience, literally, the camera blinks and flickers with his dilated pupils.  And what starts out as a sort of basic (if jittery filmed) drug deal gone bad turns into a sort of redemptive, free associative dream scape.  Oscar has a younger sister, Linda (played by Pax de la Huerta, of Boardwalk Empire), and as the story stretches back to the beginning, we're invited in the sad, co-existent lives of these siblings.  Survived by a tragic childhood, and bonded together in pain, it's in the middle act of the film that Enter the Void becomes an intoxicating experience-- painful, yet completely watchable, despite the mediocrity of the performances and often amateur-ish character development.  Noe makes us feel something as opposed to thinking about something.  And for a great while I was almost transfixed by his trick-out visuals.

That is until the film marched in direction of the tedious, and listless.  The first half keeps you going because the pacing hardly falters, even if parts are glaringly grotesque or gratuitous.  Yet after the first hour or so wares you out, it appears that Noe realizes their isn't much point anymore, but somehow keeps the movie going for another ninety minutes.  And as the different color schemes and odd framing tools become more distancing and distracting, one has the realization that Noe is just showing off here.  And while I have no doubt that a cavalcade of cinephiles will proclaim Enter the Void a masterpiece, the jury's still out from my standpoint on Gasper Noe. His talent is altogether illuminating, but sometimes all style, no substance can make a dull movie, and pretentious Euro-trash provocation can get old fairly quickly. C-

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