Friday, March 11, 2016


I've been dreading watching Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void again. Dreading it.

Maybe not as much as I've been dreading watching Gaspar Noe's Irreversible again, but dreading it nonetheless.

Ordinarily, if you were dreading watching a movie a second time, the solution would be simple. You just wouldn't watch it a second time.

But that's what makes Noe's movies so unusual. You don't really want to watch them again because of the ways they've unsettled you, but you are also magnetically drawn to them. They're like a drug you know you shouldn't take because it gives you a terrible trip, but there's also something unforgettable about that terrible trip. Something transcendent, even.

Ironically, it was not quite getting this sensation from Noe's latest, last year's Love, that pushed Enter the Void up to the top of my rewatch list, that prompted me to cue it up on Netflix Thursday night.

Love was compelling on a basic level and it was easily recognizable as a Noe film. Its X-rated eroticism was actually pretty sexy, and it goes to the margins of being haunting. But it falls short of the mindfuck that is both Enter the Void and Irreversible, the other of which I will probably now be prompted to watch at some point in the coming months as well. And even ejaculating penises grow repetitive after a while.

I suppose one might argue that parts of Enter the Void grow repetitive, but that's part of their hypnotic charm. "Charm" would be the wrong word, though. Definitely the wrong word. "Spell" is better. "Fever dream" might be even better. "Nightmare" might ultimately be correct.

I won't tell you a whole lot about Enter the Void, mostly because I don't recommend it for just anybody, so selling any particular person on watching it is not my goal. Also, it's worth not knowing exactly what's going to happen to you when you start watching it.

But I'll tell you what happens RIGHT when you start watching it, when the mood is set via the complete credits of the movie assaulting you right off the bat. No, it's not the slow northward crawl you get with most credits. It's a strobing, stroke-inducing blast of information in different fonts of different sizes, different production company logos, different languages, and even probably some hieroglyphs. Then there's the intense, driving music that also pummels you. It's Noe's unique way of preparing you for the shocks to your senses that are about to follow.

Ironically, what then follows is completely different in tone and speed. The movie starts with slow, dreamy POV shots of an American drug dealer living in Tokyo, first as he gets high (and stares up into the swirly colors of the ceiling for about ten minutes), then as he goes to a bar to deliver some drugs to a partner.

And that's when things go really off the rails.

And don't even get me started on that car crash.

What both Enter the Void and Irreversible -- you know, the one with the brutal extended rape scene -- do so well is that they create a feeling that you are unsafe. They are suffused with ominous foreboding, the kind that manifests itself in the score and in all the visuals, the kind that seeps into your skin. Noe's is a dark, sad, violent world, where good people come to bad ends. It's also invigorating and bracing and impossible to forget.

Once I tackle my second viewing of Irreversible -- oh Lord, that rape scene -- I'll need to go back and watch Noe's first feature, I Stand Alone, his only feature I have yet to see. It came out in 1998 and, I understand, is just as hard to watch as his other films, with the possible exception of Love, which may dangle you over the edge a couple times but never drops you.

And for a new Noe film, it'll be quite the wait. Never have fewer than four years elapsed between his films, and it was seven years from Irreversible in 2002 to Enter the Void in 2009.

So will Noe again leave me feeling unsafe, in whatever film he makes in 2020 or 2021?

I'm already dreading it.

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