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Sleeper of the Week: Gaspar Noé’s ‘Love’

Sleeper of the Week: Gaspar Noé's 'Love'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some light on it.

Dir: Gaspar Noé
Criticwire Average: B-

Gaspar Noé has built a career out of provoking audiences with his confrontational, wholly original spirit. He flirts with the avant-garde, New Age philosophy, Kubrick homages, and to top it all off, an earnest sincerity to bring his vision to audiences. Films like “Irréversible” and “Enter the Void” have alienating, psychedelic tendencies that attract and repel in equal measure, making him one of the few directors working today who is entirely himself, making films that no one else could imagine. Now, this doesn’t inherently mean his films aren’t flawed, or even good for that matter, but they are singular. His latest film “Love” is a 3-D relationship drama between an American Murphy (Karl Glusman) and his Parisian girlfriend Electra (Aomi Muyock) presented in flashbacks as the two broke up when Murphy wanted to have sex with other women and got another women pregnant as a result. “Love” features plenty of extended sequences of graphic sex all in 3-D, but it also presents Noe’s classic self-aware indulgences that will either delight or disgust audiences, but it also features his distinctive camera movements that will interest auteurs. As with all of his films, “Love” has received a mixed critical reception, with some rolling their eyes at his excesses and others embracing his style. It’ll be up to audiences whether “Love” engages them or simply rolls off their back.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Matt Prigge, Metro

In the past, Noe has frequently “gone there.” We can’t print the depravities in “I Stand Alone,” “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void,” but the big shocks in “Love” are more goofy, couldn’t-resist, including two separate cases where Glusman’s member stares right at us and shoots out the camera lens. The most upsetting moment is simply misjudged: a deeply uncomfortable scene where a drunk and jazzed Murphy almost makes it with a transgender prostitute but just can’t do it because, well, you know. (Murphy’s enough of a lummox that this could be read as more about his own limitations.) Most of the time “Love” is serene and melancholic, steeped in memories its hero wish could last forever — a sad dirge about someone who wishes he could get lost in his memories and never return. It’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” only with more threesomes in three dimensions. Read more.

Gregory Ellwood, HitFix

But “Love” may not be as erotic as many expect. The gratuitous sex may eventually start to bore many viewers. Some may even take off their 3D glasses because they simply aren’t necessary. Yet, for all its faults, “Love” is a film that somehow still resonates. And it’s not because Noé is pushing the boundaries of human sexual expression in cinema. On the surface, that aspect of the film feels superfluous. No, somehow there is one sliver of genuine intimacy that appears through all of the noise and distraction, a sliver of true intimacy that is rarely seen in narrative film. And after 2 hours and 10 minutes, that may be enough to justify the entire experience. Read more.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club

Noé is self-aware enough to recognize that his movies tend to disappear up their own asses; not for nothing is the nightclub in “Irréversible” called The Rectum. “Love” frames its own navel-gazing as an experiment in first-person psychological interiority, narrated by Murphy, who is trying to remember Electra while smoking opium on a dreary New Year’s morning. The misogynistic, self-pitying voice-over brings to mind the bitter, alienated narrator from “I Stand Alone,” though the approach here is perhaps too measured (or too personally invested) to be corrosive. Or perhaps the problem is in the cast, too amateur to emote and talk at the same time; what one wouldn’t do here for the unstable line readings of “Enter The Void’s” Paz De La Huerta, not to speak of the zip Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci put into “Irréversible.” What does that leave? The movie’s geometrically striking, intentionally limited style. The camera is presentational and largely static, suggesting movement in the background of graphic novel panels, or, in the rare cases when it moves, the locked third-person of an open-world game. For the most part, there are three kinds of shots in “Love” (frontal, profile, overhead), which sometimes creates the impression of a moment being coldly sliced, as though by a lab technician preparing a microscope slide. Formal gimmicks have always been Noé’s strong suit, and here he comes up with a simple and effective one, spacing the shots with flickers of black screen in lieu of traditional continuity cuts. “Love,” a movie with very little to say about relationships and even less to say about sex, is somehow one of the most interesting attempts any filmmaker has made in recent years at conveying the experience of memory.

Mark Jenkins, NPR

Perhaps the lovemaking would have more juice if the characters weren’t so shallow, and their dialogue so flat. Equally thin are the performances of the three leads, clearly chosen for their beauty and willingness to bare all, not their ability to endow their roles with more life than they had on the page. But if the action feels mechanical, that’s at least partly deliberate. The goal can’t be naturalism when the main character articulates the director’s own opinions about movies, and announces his intention to make a “sentimental sex film” that’s pretty much what the audience is watching.

Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

In the context of a movie-rating culture that, in America at least, has deemed the orgasm more offensive than the Uzi, “Love” has a touching innocence that diverges radically from Mr. Noé’s back catalog. Lacking both the stylistic bling of his trippy 2010 feature, “Enter the Void,” and the shocking violence of “Irrevérsible” (2002), this latest venture casts the writer and director less as provocateur than as evangelist. His images hum with a melancholic nostalgia (remember pubic hair?), and his faith in the power of great sex — and a script that talks of little else — to support an almost two-and-a-quarter-hour feature is surprisingly sweet. And ultimately misplaced. As if all its artistic energy had been gobbled up by the fornication, “Love” has nothing left with which to build its characters or set them in motion. A spider-web story unfolds in flashback as Murphy, now with a new partner (Klara Kristin) and an accidental toddler, learns that Electra has gone missing and spirals into bitter self-loathing. There’s a lot to loathe, as Mr. Glusman, an indifferent actor playing an unlikable jerk, mopes and rants in depressed voice-over. The picture might be filmed in unnecessary 3-D, but in every other respect, it’s exasperatingly one-dimensional. Read more.

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