Noé. The Argentinian provocateur is not for the timid. Those who mandate subtly in their art will not admire his work. The scandal surrounding his films’ subject matter seem to get most of the headlines when people talk about Gaspar Noé–but he’s a natural born stylist—endlessly inventive with the camera and influential. He is a clear auteur, a brand, and I think the collective whole is shaping up nicely–an impressive body of work.
Best film: Irreversible. Tough to stomach if your focus is on the content— but as cinema– this dizzying display of cinematography is just too ambitious and audacious to ignore.
total archiveable films: 3
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 0
most overrated: Nothing for Noé. Irreversible is at #705 which would be about where I have it. The only other film from him listed by the TSPDT critical consensus is Enter the Void at #1698- a respectful spot for a film as recent as 2009.
most underrated : None really here either. I owe Love another look- Climax is the only other film of his in the archives after the two mentioned above and it is in a good spot, too.
gem I want to spotlight : Climax
- It’s a Noé film in style, subject, and narrative structure. The camera floats around in wonderful long takes like an ethereal being, it’s filled with drugs, sex, and violence and we get a spin at the very end that notes the cause of the disaster that just proceeded it (just like Irreversible famously did)
- Upside down with the camera in large stretches, overhead too
- Like Irreversible this is one night and largely seems to take place in real time.
- A descent in into hell
- There’s a near graphic match above and below here (or at least a really inspired mise-en-scene pairing) with the fruit in the sangria and the dancers on the dance floor. It’s gorgeous and metaphorical—we’re all in this hell
- It’s actually pretty rigorously presented—yes we get the closing credits first, and the opening credits come like 1/3 of the way into the movie, but we get the interview section of the actors (with Noe noting his cinematic influences in the frame with Bunuel, Argento Fassbinder and others), then each actor in a social setting, each actor dancing,
- Intoxicating neons and shadow mix
- Gorgeous hallway shots in this hell
- It’s middle-finger cinema like Lars or Bunuel or Pasolini (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom)—but I agree with the Times saying that Noe is a “better technician than a thinker” which I don’t think you could say about the other three- especially Bunuel (you could compare much of the premise here to Exterminating Angel)
- great shot of dancer seeming to enter a mural on the wall
- Noe is a clear auteur – even if he’s a shock auteur and each film crosses an line (very intentionally) that seem to be for the headlines
- It’s nihilism—maybe even beyond that- Noe likes to watch something beautiful get destroyed
- Brilliant camera movement- a technical wizard
- Upside down shots
- Overhead shots
- Neons galore (Argento an influence)
- Tech/club music, violence/drugs, set and shot at night
- Floating camera from the ceiling, untethered and uninhibited
- Long handheld tracking shots behind figures like Van Sant’s Elephant or Bela Tarr – but from a subject matter standpoint his influences are Bunuel, Pasolini- he is always aiming to provoke, but often (and infamously) aims to disgust as well. I think it’s undeniable he’s had an effect on everyone from László Nemes to Inarritu (the shot in Birdman can be explained no other way) to Refn to something like Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night
- Narrative structure playfulness and manipulation- sets the conclusion of the film first and then shows you how it all went wrong
- Enter the Void
By year and grades
|2009- Enter the Void||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
And I Stand Alone? Did not you like it?
@Lucas Henriques- I have not had the chance to catch it yet. What did you think?
it is a very good film, the best of Gaspar Noe (but as I only saw two of it, I am not a very reliable opinion), reminded me a little of Taxi, you know the excluded from society, the hidden dirt, these things.
I just caught Irreversible. Wow. Both astounding and absolutely brutal. I believe it may be a masterpiece. There is the tumbling, freewheeling camera as you point out, but that itself becomes its own motif to divide each scene, keeping the illusion of the one shot. The only time in the entire film the camera is static is during the rape scene, and it sits completely still for close to ten minutes. One small thing I noticed in that scene – the tiny silhouette of the man who enters in the background, registers what is happening, and walks away. Chilling.
Then there is the choice of colour palette. Reds, oranges, yellows, especially when Alex is walking down into the underground tunnel, it’s like she is entering hell. That scene also neatly divides the film into two, and at that point it starts moving further away from those intense, fiery hues and into cool greens. The windows in the apartment give a glimpse of that calmer world, and then the final scene – the overhead shot of Alex lounging on an orange towel in a field of bright green grass – it combines striking mise-en-scene, astounding camera movement, and a brilliant formal payoff. I am already keen for my second viewing but it certainly takes an emotional toll, so I may sit with it a bit first.
@Declan– interesting…I like this. Thanks for sharing.
Declan’s not actually right about the camera only being completely static during the rape scene. In the second half, when it’s just a slice-of-life movie about Marcus, Alex and Pierre partying and hanging out, it’s static when they’re in the train (the train is moving but the camera isn’t moving within the train), and it’s static or near-static in some of the scenes in Alex’s house. It’s also 7.5 minutes between when Noe places the camera on the ground and when he pans to a slightly different angle within the shot.
I’ll give this one a MS/MP for now.
I just described this as a slice-of-life film? What the hell?
I did notice that scene on the train as being more still than most of the rest of the film, but it is still handheld – you can notice tiny camera shakes in those moments even when it isn’t spinning around. In that rape scene though it was completely stable, like the camera operator has just let go of it completely and let it roll without interference.
Great point about keeping the camera so close to the ground, but I’m not sure that it makes us identify with Le Tania. It definitely makes him more terrifyingly powerful, but doesn’t keeping it at that low angle put us in Alex’s perspective since she is literally below him?
Well of course we’re not intentionally identifying with Le Tenia; unless we’re like Ted Bundy or something. Noé is forcing us into that uncomfortable perspective. I’m not sure we’re in Alex’s perspective either. If we were, the camera would be flying all over the place like it was for the rest of the movie (not complaining; it was amazing) to represent her struggling, but instead we’re just sitting there watching, not even doing anything. I suppose we’re that one guy who came, saw, and walked away instead of intervening (conquering doesn’t quite make sense here).
Good point. That brief silhouette just keeps haunting me. Its facelessness is so open to interpretation it may as well be us.
On another note, I find Noé’s choice of camera height and angle in the assault scene interesting. I skimmed over Declan’s Letterboxd review of this film some weeks ago (by skimmed I mean zipped through at light speed) and I actually only picked up on his MP rating and the fact that the camera was stationary during the climactic (not a pun in reference to Noé) scene; I had no idea going into this film of the brilliant camera movement so that really stunned me while watching it.
Back to the beginning about Noé’s camera in the assault scene, I went into this scene expecting a high angle shot from a high height, which would put us in the character of Alex as a high angle reinforces a mood of vulnerability such as Alex is in, but instead Noé actually went for a low-height low-angle shot. reinforcing a feeling of power and control, making us, the audience, Le Tenia instead. He does the same when Mick starts beating Marcus, and then again immediately afterward when Pierre begins bashing his brains in with the fire extinguisher. I guess this all portrays Noé’s views on an audience’s obsession with violence, I’ll need to think on it longer to fully understand it.
I forgot to mention above but the lighting, and honestly the film in general does make me excited to rewatch Suspiria. I do feel I have been underrating that one.
new Noé film to premiere at Cannes next month
Noé’s Vortex, starring Dario Argento, Françoise Lebrun and Alex Lutz will run in the new Cannes Première section. It’s billed as a quasi-documentary about the last years of a loving couple suffering from senility.
Happy holidays guys
@Harry- Same to you, Harry. I have loved reading your comments and contributions lately – thank you.