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First Cannes Reviews: Gaspar Noé’s ‘Love,’ A 3D Art-Porn Mashup

First Cannes Reviews: Gaspar Noé's 'Love,' A 3D Art-Porn Mashup

Only Gaspar Noé, the arthouse provocateur behind “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void,” could make a pornographic 3D movie and have it judged tame by comparison. “Love,” which for reasons of spectacle was one of Cannes’ most-anticipated titles, premiered at midnight to a full house and then some; critics reported showing up 90 minutes early and still being turned away. After the lights came up and the sweat had dried, however, most critics hit Twitter to proclaim themselves underwhelmed, inevitable stereoscopic money shot notwithstanding. The longer reviews tend to be at least more sympathetic to Noé’s aims, with a few even going so far as to admit the movie turned them on (shocker!), but none are able to muster full-fledged enthusiasm for the film: To use the ratings scale made famous by Hustler magazine, it’s closer to “totally limp” than “fully erect.” None of this, of course, will dim the excitement of Noé’s partisans to see the film, which has already been picked up for U.S. distribution (no date has been set). Like it or not, it’s one they’ve got to see.

Reviews of “Love” 

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

It’s hardcore, yet much softer-core than Noé’s earlier movies, without the terrifying shock factor of “Irreversible” and “Seul Contre Tous,” and without the visual brilliance of “Enter the Void,” and “Love” is preposterous and badly acted and talky in a way that porn films haven’t been since they were designed to be shown in cinemas: I was paradoxically reminded of Clive James’ memory of nervously taking his date to see “Hiroshima Mon Amour” and them becoming the first couple in history to see that film and not have sex afterwards. But there is something endearing in its very monomaniacal quality: here is a film with just one subject, what Casanova called the “subject of subjects”: the subject we spend most of our time thinking about and not admitting it, and here is a film which actually shows you the sex, the thing that makes babies, as supposed to the general coy sexiness and come-on glamour that so many other films spend their time promoting.

Robbie Collin, Telegraph

The problem with “Love” isn’t its purpose, which I find wholly laudable, nor the sex itself, which is beautiful and also — to use a taboo critical term — sexy. It’s that both these things deserved a far richer and more intelligent film to support them. Catherine Breillat’s “Romance” and Bertrand Bonello’s “The Pornographer,” two recent French films that share plenty of DNA (so to speak) with Noé’s work, each gnawed at the boundaries of taboo — though as you watched them, you felt both working on your soul as well as your reserve. But Noé’s film, amid its kaleidoscope of fleshy conjugations, never quite makes a connection with its audience. It’s all look, no touch.

Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter

If you cut out all the sex scenes in Gaspar Noe’s “Love,” what’s left is a wistful, some might say sappy story about heartbreak, made with impressive cinematic elan but somewhat shallow emotional depth, for all its tragic posturing. As a downbeat love story about romantic loss, it’s ineffective because it’s hard to get invested in main man Murphy’s (Glusman) despair over losing Electra (Muyock) when he’s such a callow jerk. On the other, if the metrics by which you want to measure Love are its brute sexiness and technical panache, then the film is indeed rather extraordinary.

Peter Debruge, Variety

The helmer of such transgressive pics as “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void,” Noe resolved to make a relationship movie that was honest about human sexuality, and though the stereoscopic 3D result thrusts plenty of the old bump-and-grind in audiences’ faces, it would be disingenuous to pretend that other directors haven’t gotten there first — and to more revealing effect. Still, you’ve gotta hand it to Noe for leaving no taboo unturned, and for putting so much of himself into a film that’s bound to leave titillation seekers resenting its creator during the long stretches of wallowing introspection between climaxes.

Adam Woodward, Little White Lies

At times it feels as if Noé’s natural predisposition is hamstringing him from telling an authentically compelling sexual melodrama in the vein of something like “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” which was deservedly awarded top prize here two years ago. Clearly he’s striving for something more poetic and profound this time around, but the upshot is a skin-deep love story told from the perspective of an obnoxious protagonist whose romantic gestures are never backed up by anything more substantial than a quick fuck between the sheets (or on the floor, or up against a bookcase, or in a bathtub, or at the bottom of a staircase).

Dave Calhoun, Time Out

You can’t totally dismiss Noé as an empty showman. He knows how to create and run with a base, nocturnal, queasily descending atmosphere like few filmmakers, and he’s alive to our self-destructive ability to screw up our own destinies. But Noé fatally undermines any serious purpose with tongue-in-cheek scenes featuring himself (in a wig) as Electra’s older ex-boyfriend. Also, the film’s flagrantly autobiographical elements (Murphy, like Noé, says he want to make films full of sex, violence and spunk) are distracting and self-regarding. There’s a semi-decent, bold film buried somewhere here, but it’s nearly sunk by its need to shock and tease at almost every turn.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

The conceit behind “Love,” a 3D love story loaded with graphic sex, suggests another attempt to merge extreme provocations with real filmmaking skill. Instead, the biggest surprise of “Love” is its modest ambition: Noé’s intermittently absorbing, somewhat half-baked, underwritten chronicle of a doomed romance does offer a few tidbits of hardcore goods as promised, but otherwise feels lightweight. Rushed to the finish line in time for its Cannes Film Festival premiere, “Love” plays out like the fragmented outline for a more engaging movie. But the one found here lacks substance both on the level of story and graphic reveals.

Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily

Noé’s English-language film lives up to its title, in that it’s about amour fou rather than strictly about sex, and in terms of graphic content, it’s fairly tame compared to Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac”; but then it also lacks that film’s ambition and literate wit. “Love’s” over-insistent harping on angst and a very callow brand of film-student philosophy, together with a curiously oppressive overall mood, make it a more claustrophobic experience than an enlightening or arousing one.

Jessica Kiang, Playlist

It may be hardcore XXX but this is Noe at his most softhearted following the brutality of “Irreversible” and his most straightforward, following the mindfuckery of “Enter the Void” so it may even leave his fans feeling underwhelmed. Still it would be disingenuous to suggest I wasn’t diverted and occasionally dazzled by its 3D visuals, often entranced in that visceral, pure cinema kind of way, which is itself remarkable for happening during a Gaspar Noé film apparently designed to “give guys a hard-on and make girls cry.”

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