Just when you think you've seen everything on a movie screen over the course of ten plus days at the Cannes Film Festival, another film comes along to shake things up. At more than 160 minutes, Gaspar Noe's latest, "Enter The Void," is first and foremost an endurance test. Stirring boos and bravos this afternoon in Cannes, it also ranks up there, in terms of ambition and provocation, with Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist."
For the captivating first half hour of "Enter The Void", Noe's camera inhabits the viewpoint of a young drug dealer (Nathaniel Brown). As with the opening of Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," the audience is in the head of this main character, listening to his thoughts, hearing his breathing and seeing what he sees, the screen going dark momentarily when he blinks. And then he dies, leaving behind a desperately grieving sister (Paz de la Huerta).
For more than two hours, the film then becomes a hallucination and study of death, following the spirit of this dead guy, witnessing through flashbacks his memories of a rather tragic life and also traveling ghost-like throughout Tokyo, mostly from above, moving in on the dramas of the people that he's left behind.
Comprised of continuous digital effects, psychedelic visuals, ambient electronic music, and saturated colors, "Enter The Void" is a fascinating cinematic experience to take in on a big screen. For more than half of its two hours and forty minutes, it was among the most striking and compelling films I've seen in some time. One person at today's press conference argued that perhaps it belongs more in a museum than a movie theater. Told by one journalist that he was going against the grain here in Cannes, Noe defended his movie.
"I don't think I am going against the tide here. The Cannes festival is so broad that all kinds of genre are represented. The selection by Thierry Fremaux is so wide that there is room for everyone." Later he seemed a bit disappointed with the audience's reaction to his film.
"I thought people would be booing, because people [do that to my movies]. I kind of like that, I didn't get it this time," Noe said, apparently having missed the heckling at the end of the screening. A separate reporter later told him that he had earned some jeering and the filmmaker smiled.
Noe was also challenged by another member of the press about creating such miserable characters, namely a desperate male drug dealer and his hysterical stripper sister.
"What was it that Douglas Sirk said to Fassbender," Gaspar Noe told the questioner, "To make a good melodrama you need, sperm, blood and tears. These are in this film."
Finally, asked about the films or filmmakers that are inspring him these days, Noe offered directly, "I tend to watch documentaries a lot now." And he noted, "I want to see the Lars Von Trier film very much. I hope they play it again on Sunday."