Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Directed by Gaspar Noé
Artificial Eye Blu Ray Zone B
Love is a movie which includes unsimulated sex scenes, directed by Gaspar Noé, who also directed a movie I quite liked called Enter The Void (reviewed here)... and one which I didn’t care for all that much called Irreversible. Whether I like his movies or not, though, I do quite like his style of direction and presentation and so I thought I’d give Love a go.
The film is one which kind of teases the viewer with the pretence of having a story to tell... one might say it even has a bit of a mystery at its heart... but it doesn’t actually concentrate on that mystery at all and neither, it seems, is the director interested in giving us any solutions or closure to the so called plot set up. Instead it uses this starting point to explore the past relationship between the film’s central protagonist Murphy (played by Karl Glusman) and his ex-girlfriend Electra (played her by Aomi Muyock) from the viewpoint of looking back on it from his present situation with his current girlfriend and their young son.
Now I’ve got nothing wrong with movies that use a hook as a starting point and give no closure to that hook. Anyone paying attention to my reviews will know that I don’t value story as a major ingredient in a film anyway. In fact, last year I reviewed Sasha Grey’s second novel, The Janus Chamber (right here) which does exactly the same thing and even has this kind of ‘anti-structure’ referenced and justified within the text of the book. So I’m all quite cool with that.
That being said, the film wasn’t that much of an intriguing or fun watch, it has to be said. I didn’t dislike it too much but then I wasn’t as intrigued as I had been by Enter The Void so... not greatly enthused about this one, in all honesty.
The film starts with a long held shot of Murphy and Electra naked in bed and playing with each other’s genitals. It’s a nicely composed shot and I’ve got absolutely nothing against films which use real sex in them (theatrically released or otherwise). As Electra masturbates Murphy’s penis, we hear Eric Satie on the soundtrack... either one of the Gymnopédies or Gnoissiennes. We then jump cut in time to the sound of Murphy’s phone as he lays in the same bed with his current gal on New Year’s Day. As things go on around him and we learn that the phone call was former girlfriend Electra’s mother trying to contact him (because Electra has disappeared off the face of the earth) we hear his internal monologue as a voice over on the soundtrack... something which continues throughout the movie.
The film then starts flashing backwards and forwards in time and space as we explore various ‘scenes’ from his relationship with Electra, learn how much Murphy feels he still really loves her and also hear of his disenchantment with his current lady and the domestic cage which his life has become. And, as we hear him talk to himself and constantly calling himself a ‘loser’, it doesn’t take long to figure out the truth about this character... he really is a ‘loser’. I’m sorry but I could work up absolutely no sympathy for this fellow at all, no matter how well performed all the leads in this are (including Murphy). I kept asking myself why anybody would want to hang out with this whiny and constantly hypocritical guy when they didn’t have to.
Asides from the naturalistic and often very good performances from all the key actors, the film is full of the long takes and fluid camerawork which we are now accustomed to within the cinema of Gaspar Noé. Also, asides from constant shout outs to the director himself in one guise or another (for example, Murphy’s son is called Gaspar), Murphy is also a budding director and that allows for a fair few visual and audio references to keep fans of cinema interested in this.
The lightning schemes are often quite ‘impressionistic’, for example and, during one sequence where Murphy is wandering the streets at night and sifting through all the puzzle pieces of Electra in his head, the colour and light combined with the figure he is cutting through the city (with his back to us, half the time) absolutely invoked the ghost of Travis Bickle in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. Which makes sense since, in the time period when he is with Electra, Murphy has a Taxi Driver poster in his apartment. It’s a shame the music on this particular sequence I’m thinking of doesn’t go the whole hog and uses Bernard Herrmann’s last ever movie score on the soundtrack too.
However, there are some quite nice and unexpected movie score references throughout the running time... such as when we see a sex scene depicting the inception of Murphy’s son and it’s scored with Gaslini & Goblin’s music from Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (aka Deep Red). There’s another surprising, musical choice when Murphy and Electra visit a swinger’s club (on the recommendation of a police officer who arrests Murphy at one point) and the whole orgiastic sequence is underscored with John Carpenter’s main theme from his film Assault On Precinct 13.
It’s nice little surprises like this... along with the director’s usual flair for unexpected spectacle such as a scene with a camera POV inside a character’s vagina, with Murphy’s penis thrusting towards camera before ejaculating into a swirly, kaleidoscopic image... which keep the audience interested in a film which has, after all, a truly unsympathetic central protagonist. Or the interesting way the director will sometimes mask the sides of a shot in darkness to focus into the centre of a composition. Little touches like these keep the film from being boring although, it has to be said, in terms of any real substance to the characters or follow through on their actions, it’s kinda light.
Love is not a film I’d necessarily recommend to many people as a jumping on point for Gaspar Noé but fans of this director will probably be okay with it. The UK, Artificial Eye Blu Ray also has a 3D print of it on the disc, if you have the facilities to take advantage of this at home.