Enter The Void

Gasper Noé’s Enter The Void
Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 9:00PM
Sunday March 13, 2011 at 7:30PM
Wednesday March 16, 2011 at 9:00PM
Thursday March 17, 2011 at 9:00PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque
100 Arthur Street

One of the most anticipated cinematic events of the year, Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void is a visionary cinematic thrill ride that’s riveted audiences at the Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and SXSW film festivals. The long-awaited follow up to his controversial Irreversible, Enter the Void is a cinematic roller-coaster ride that according to Salon.com “represents a revolutionary break from ordinary movie storytelling.” Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta star in the visceral journey set against the thumping, neon club scene of Tokyo, which hurls the viewer into an astonishing trip through life, death, and the universally wonderful and horrible moments between.

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From Uptown March 9, 2011

An exercise in sheer sensation
Enter the Void’s visual sound and fury signifies much more than nothing, but still could have signified more

It’s hard to know what came first for director Gaspar Noé.

Enter the Void is Noé’s first feature since 2002’s infamously violent (and sexually explicit) Irreversible. And almost immediately, he signals he may be more interested in sheer visual experience above all: this is pure, virtuoso cinema; an aesthetically stupendous celebration of the moving image, married to sound.

From the retinal onslaught of the opening titles to the first scene’s subjective, swirling camera; from the hypnotic colour and lighting to the remarkable tracking through and above Tokyo; from drug trips that evoke the star gate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey, to a startling and funny perspective on the act of intercourse, Noé’s cinematic wizardry is undeniable.

Except, what does it amount to? The (disjointed) story’s purpose seems solely to enable the technique. We’re never allowed to meaningfully engage with the characters because Noé’s narrative approach leaves us literally detached.

Hence, Enter the Void ultimately feels like an overlong conceptual experiment. It remains quite an experience. But let’s compare it with Irreversible, which also boasted conspicuous technique, presenting its story backwards in time, beginning with the end.

This was no mere gimmick; the film’s very structure illuminated its true subject. Style and content weren’t just inextricably linked — they merged to facilitate a devastating theme.

Enter the Void, by contrast, is more interested in sheer sensation — or is at least more successful on that level. Yet how much more this film might have been had Noé a) had something more to say, b) more genuinely involved us, and c) linked these objectives to his technical and visual genius.

The story, such as it is, concerns Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), an American expat in Tokyo who gets mixed up in drug dealing. Ambushed by police, he’s abruptly shot dead.

We’re shocked, but it’s where the film proper begins. As Noé’s camera soars up and away, we realize we’re seeing Oscar’s life and memories unspool through his eyes. He and sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) lost their parents in a childhood car crash and grew closer because of it. The whole reason Oscar turns to drug dealing is to raise enough money to fly Linda over.

Thus, how ironic it is that drugs get between them, as Linda spirals into addiction, despair and tragedy — that is, if the fractured mindscape of dead Oscar can be believed: he isn’t the most reliable narrator.

We’re not even sure if we can trust what we see as real, but the film doesn’t reckon with that dimension, either. It also gets repetitive and draggy, as if Noé couldn’t bear to excise certain scenes.

Enter the Void nonetheless testifies to undiluted sound and vision’s power to entrance. Simultaneously, it reinforces film’s narrative nature: the longer we’re expected to watch the screen, the more essential it becomes to make us care about what happens next.

Noé makes us care just enough — but no further. What a masterpiece he’d have had, if he’d refused to leave it at that.

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From The Winnipeg Free Press March 12, 2011

Astonishing visuals help fill the Void

If certain anime cartoons have been known to induce seizures in some susceptible viewers, the strobing opening credits of French director Gaspar Noé’s point-of-view druggie movie might actually induce death.

But then, the entire movie is a kind of representation of the hippie axiom: “Death is the ultimate trip.”

An amazing prelude puts the viewer in the head of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a young American expat living in Tokyo and making a living in that expensive town dealing hallucinogenic drugs.

Of course, Noé’s portrayal of a neon-exploded Tokyo almost makes hallucinogenic drugs redundant. In Oscar’s experience of the city, you’re never sure if the pretty lights are coming from the buildings or from whatever pharmaceutical goodies Oscar has ingested.

In any case, Oscar’s designated appointment with a buyer at a club called Enter the Void goes badly, with Oscar shot and bleeding to death on a grubby bathroom floor. But from there, the camera floats above and follows Oscar’s post-death voyage, floating in and around Tokyo among his circle of friends, with special attention paid to Oscar’s stripper sister (Paz de la Huerta). Courtesy of an extended flashback, we learn the two siblings were cruelly separated following the accidental death of their parents, and their relationship, too close for comfort at times, essentially puts Oscar on a post-mortem suicide watch.

Noé’s film utilizes some astonishing modern visual effects, but they’re in the service of what used to be called a “head movie” that pretty much assumes the audience has been snacking on precisely the same kind of substances Oscar sells.

That might help some people get through Noé’s penchant for redundancy, self-indulgent shock value (this is one of the rare movies the Manitoba Classification Board awards an R rating) and far too much footage shot from above people’s heads.

Even so, this represents some kind of milestone in the drug movie, not just for its often astonishing visuals, but for its radical assumption that the ingestion of hallucinogenics has profound spiritual implications.

– Randall King

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~ by cineflyer on March 7, 2011.

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