Gaspar Noé is that rare director whose movies you can see from space. The lurid and dazzling colors, the howling dervish of his camera and the intensely trippy psychosexual themes all form a connective tissue that binds his three films thus far: “I Stand Alone” (1998), “Irreversible” (2002) and “Enter the Void” (2009). Anyone who’s seen “Irreversible,” the sicko auteur’s time-bending rape revenge opera, knows you can’t un-see it.
This week, Cannes audiences will finally be treated to his 3D sex opus “Love,” a three-hour melodrama about the sexual awakening of a boy, a girl and another girl. “Love” marks the Argentine-born French filmmaker’s first film since “Enter the Void,” Noé’s candy-colored free-fall into the unconscious of a dead drug dealer as his soul floats high above the twinkling Tokyo vista. As an exasperating assault on the senses as any of his films, “Enter the Void” scandalized the Competition that year and while reviews at the time were mostly negative — the film does contain a few too many unforgivable stretches of longueur — the movie will no doubt emerge a cult classic someday.
For “Love,” Noé once again writes and directs, and works with cinematographer Benoît Debie, whom Ryan Gosling tapped for “Lost River” and whose lensing on “Irreversible” is a demonic ballet of furious, pirouetting emotion. Which brings us to Noé’s 2012 Sight and Sound Poll, topped of course by Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a film that “Irreversible” conspicuously quotes in its final moments, where a poster of Kubrick’s “star child” adorns the walls of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel’s love nest. And “Irreversible”‘s epileptic final fugue, as we’re hurled into the cosmos at the speed of light, feels like Noé’s own version of Dr. Bowman’s psychedelic journey to Jupiter.
“It was my first hallucinogenic experience,” writes Noé of Kubrick’s masterwork, “my great artistic turning point and also the moment when my mother finally explained what a fetus was and how I came into the world. Without this film I would never have become a director.” It’s obvious the influence Kubrick has on the director, whose cinematic fetishes are all about sex, fetuses, wombs, birth canals and Oedipal longings.
The rest of his top 10 makes sense. Kenneth Anger’s macho, sexy, near-silent “Scorpio Rising” seems as good an entry-point as any into what the hell Noé was thinking when he came up with The Rectum, the bowels-of-hell BDSM bar that stages “Irreversible”‘s shocking violence. “Salo,” well, duh, informs Noé’s taste for torturing his audience; to see “Amour,” Michael Haneke’s own sort of torture film, on this list shows us Noé’s sweet side.
And we hope to see some of that sweet side in “Love.” Of the film, which Alchemy picked up for stateside release ahead of its midnight premiere, he writes: “This one is closest to what I have been able to know of existence, and also the most melancholic. And it gives me a lot of pleasure to be able to share this short tunnel of joys and ecstasies, accidents and mistakes.”
Check out his Noé’s top ten films, and full director’s statement for “Love,” below.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) Stanley Kubrick
“Amour” (2012) Michael Haneke
“Angst” (1983) Gerald Kargl
“Un Chien Andalou” (1928) Luis Buñuel
“Eraserhead” (1976) David Lynch
“I Am Cuba” (1964) Mikhail Kalatozov
“King Kong” (1933) Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack
“Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom” (1975) Pier Paolo Pasolini
“Scorpio Rising” (1964) Kenneth Anger
“Taxi Driver” (1976) Martin Scorsese
Ryan Lattanzio is the staff writer for TOH at Indiewire. Follow him on Twitter.