This year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival Opening Night selection was the latest from controversial French filmmaker Gaspar Noe, presented, for the first time in the festival’s history, in the desired 3D format. Love premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the year and true to the filmmakers reputation (he’s the guy that made the brilliant but often-unwatchable Irreversible and Enter the Void), was met with mixed reactions. Mostly negative, unfairly. Having thought about the film for a day now I have continued to appreciate the boundary-pushing approach to an intensely-passionate sexual relationship, the uncomfortably candid but empathetic study of how co-dependence and toxic influence can be both orgasmic and destructive, and the film’s interesting and aesthetically successful use of 3D.
Not at all the 3D porno such an indulgence could have surrendered to being, it is actually a emotionally-charged drama about regret and despair – and the battle between enlightenment and disillusionment with the co-existence of love and sex. It is the story of a young man still trapped in the lingering whirlwind of an all-encompassing sexual relationship with the likely love of his life – and dealing with the fact that she has gone and accepting who he needs to be in the next chapter of his life.Murphy (Karl Glusman) is a young American living in Paris. We meet him when he is awakened by a call from the mother of an ex-girlfriend, Elektra (Ayomi Muyock), concerned about her whereabouts. Feeling trapped by an unplanned child with Omi (Klara Kristin), his girlfriend he doesn’t love, this call forces him to revisit the erotically-charged memories of his darker, more reckless prior relationship with Elektra, come to terms with the damage wreaked by their lust and reach out to her one last time to make sure she is all right.
Two-thirds of this film is dedicated to Murphy and Elektra – and their relationship is revealed out of order – punctuated at times by specific memories, but often linked by significant events – a beautiful shared experience, a heated argument, or a sexual experiment – that changed the dynamic of the relationship.
To be clear, there is a LOT of sex in this film. Expect it. It is also a brutally overlong (135 minutes) and incredibly indulgent film – but I can’t say I was desperate for it to end. There is a lot to admire about it, and it earns surprising empathy for its largely-unlikable, narcissistic lead character by its devastating finale. Some examples of Noe’s indulgent stamp – taking full advantage of Murphy’s ‘occupation’, his apartment is adorned with classic movie posters and even a miniature set from his own Enter the Void. Another: Murphy and Omi call their son Gaspar. These are mostly throwaway references, and has little bearing on the central narrative, but did raise a shake of the head and chuckle from most of the audience.
The photography, like Noe’s previous ventures, is an outstanding achievement here. But, the 3D – aside from taking advantage of the obvious chances such a sexually explicit film offers up – really worked for me. The audience is at once involved in the couple’s sexual balletics, incredibly choreographed (or not) and performed by the cast, but we also feel like they exist outside of the world of the film – in their own bubble. This was my appreciation of the 3D. Murphy, feeling mixed up and isolated as he reflects, also appears to be removed from his unsatisfying reality. During the most hardcore sex, the entwined bodies also seem to transcend the bed (or the dingy alley) they are in. The acting all-round is inconsistent, because some of the dialogue is amusingly terrible, but the commitment by the actors here must be applauded. The amazing music choices also hit the mark consistently.
By Andrew Buckle
Love is coming to VOD in Australia November 18, courtesy of Accent.