Name: Fernando Vasquez
"Love" by Gaspar Noe (FR/USA)
T-Mobile New Horizons 2015 - Official Selection
The reason why no one watches a pornographic feature film from start to finish is the same why most audiences will struggle to follow Gaspar Noe's Love, no mater how skillful and ingenious he once again proves to be.
There are moments in the life of a film critic where he or she has to learn the hard-way. No matter how much experience you gain, your undivided obsession for cinema forces you to unleash your expectations towards any filmmaker that pops out a successive series of unique and provocative works of art that puts so many others to shame. The disappointment is sadly inevitable.
Despite much controversy and negative criticism from the mainstream, Gaspar Noe is often regarded as a rare breath of fresh air in contemporary cinema. And rightly so, it must be said. Few artists have managed to be as provocative and daring as the Frenchmen. Since his ambitious short film Carne, which took the Cannes Film Festival unprepared in 1991, he has been taking his often loyal audience into a series of voyages through the dark depravity of the modern man, finding much more then a niche in the process. As such it is no surprise there was so much talk in anticipation of the premiere in Cannes of his latest work, Love. It's promise of an insight on sex, love and devotion fulled the scene like few other films this year. Yet, only a fool, such as myself, did not see this coming.
Exaggeration and personal penitence aside, Noe's latest is painted in an efficient and attractive format, yet it fails at the most basic level.
Love takes us through a series of glimpses of a love affair between a young American filmmaker named Murphy, who moved to Paris in search of life experiences, and a local artist called Electra. The tumultuous relationship is predestined to failure, and no matter how much it is spiced up with an obsessive dose of sexual healing, the cracks are way too deep to provide any chance of a future. This is the setting for the internal struggle of a young man who is constantly haunted by a past relationship as he tries to build a present with his new girlfriend and son.
The narrative process is overwhelmingly dominated by sex. You'll quickly loose count as every few minutes the characters embark on yet another sexual venture. Let's see: there is at least one, somewhat epic, menage a trois; several incursions in various bedrooms; one unfortunate swingers club visit; there is even an already infamous ejaculation shot, that justifies the always demanding 3D choice. All of it beautifuly shot, with particular emphasis on the threesome scene that makes Love's trailer one of the most attractive and outrageous teasers in modern history, putting Trier's Nymphomaniac in the bottom draw where it belongs.
Yet, despite all its virtuosity, the first clue to Love's limitation is found in its libidinous obsession. After the initial amazement, it is impossible not to be taken over by tedium. In this age of internet porn sex has lost most of its shock value. Basic repetition may be TV's bread and water, but in order to make it work on film you need engaging characters between the sheets.
Reducing Love by describing it as pornography is intellectually diminishing to say the least. Having said that, there are inevitable similarities. Sadly the most obvious is that much like in porn, the characters behind the phallus are stale and uninteresting. They exist in a sexual universe and fail at accomplishing anything at any other level. You are as likely to be bored at their immature inner struggles as you are at their endless and repetitive sexual incursions.The necessary empathy or aversion is virtually absent, covering this love affair in superficiality and little else.
The only aspect stooping Love from being a wasted couple of hours is the fact that many of Noe´s trademarks are ever present, and to a certain degree, reproduced in an extremely efficient way. The dirty and gritty ambiance keeps us alive and awake through the dark alleys, staircases and corridors with the usual doped up dark vision he so effortlessly replicates. In love you'll find the dim lit apartment block aisles of Enter the void; the moist and dangerous reddish atmosphere of Irreversible's Rectum club; along side many revisits to Noe's most celebrated achievements.
But no matter how gorgeous the Frenchmen can make it all feel, you can't help but come out exhausted from the film theater, and not in his usual brilliant fashion. “He who never sinned cast the first stone” i guess, and despite this massive disappointment it would be tremendously unfair not to conclude with: Gaspar, i still love you (no pun intended) and can´t wait for your own penitence.