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Entering Noe’s ‘Void’

Entering Noe's 'Void'

It was announced this week that IFC Films has acquired U.S. rights for Gaspar Noe’s new film, Enter The Void. Noe’s challenging, beautiful, and difficult film premiered at Cannes in May, which is where I saw the first festival cut. I had heard the version which later screened at Toronto was slightly different, and it’s very possible that the version IFC will release, will be altered even more. Which is fine by me, because the Cannes version of the film was overlong and bloated. It needed a good 40 minutes trimmed from its three-hour running time. The version that will screen at Sundance this weekend, is reportedly the same as the Toronto version. Here is what I posted from Cannes, only minutes after leaving the premiere:

There were rumors that he may not finish the film in time [for Cannes]. But he did, and the final product is perhaps the most challenging film to premiere in the Cannes Official Selection this year. Nathaniel Brown plays Oscar, an American living in Tokyo who is addicted to psychotropic drugs like DMT. His sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), lives along with him in Tokyo and for some reason, works as a stripper. One night, Oscar is called to deliver some drugs to a friend in a bar, when he discovers he’s been set up. The cops gun him down, and we then spend the rest of the film understanding two realities: the events that led up to all of this and the aftermath of Oscar’s death.

The above paragraph sounds simple enough, but the techniques employed by Noe are anything but. From the beginning, we see the world as Oscar sees it, with the camera mounted as if we’re looking through his eyes (complete with occasional blinking). When Oscar is killed, his out-of-body experience becomes the viewers mode of discovery. The camera floats from locale to locale (often using sources of light as a transition tool). At first, Oscar is reminded of his childhood with Linda, which included their parents’ grisly death in a car accident. Linda and Oscar form an unusually tight bond during their youth, which later in life compels Oscar to raise cash by becoming a drug dealer, so that he can fly his adoring sister to his new home in Japan. Linda needs to make some money, and falls into a bad crowd of strippers and club owners. This backstory, and Noe’s flawless editing methods, are captivating. The film is dark and experimental, but never boring.

All of this occurs through the first 90 minutes. The rest of the film (75 or so minutes) gets a little tiresome as Oscar’s spirit eavesdrops on the rather dull events of his sister and their friends, following his death. Noe’s visual style is solid, but the momentum achieved by the brilliant first half slows to a crawl. The references and inspiration from The Tibetan Book of the Dead create interesting symbolism, but there’s a lack of drive in the last half of the story.

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