Love, Cannes film review: Visceral brilliance sets Gasper Noé drama apart from standard porn

The sex scenes aren't as hardcore as film fans might be expecting

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The Independent Culture

Love was the hot ticket in Cannes, both in terms of the massive scrum trying to get into the midnight screening, and the explicit poster, which promised hardcore sex and lots of it. All in 3D. It is directed by Gasper Noé, the French director famous for transgressive movies like the ultra-violent Seul Contre Tous and Irreversible, which featured a graphic 9-minute rape scene. 

The last time there was this much sexual tension in a cinema it was for the limp Fifty Shades of Grey. Noé delivers, although the sex scenes aren't as hardcore as one might expect, despite the film’s opening scene featuring a man and woman cupping each other’s genitalia.

The man is Murphy, and as explained in one of Noé’s trademark inter-titles, Murphy’s Law dictates that “everything that can go wrong, will.” Perhaps Noé had this fact in mind when he cast the awful Karl Glusman as his American in Paris. A generous critic might claim that he’s simply paying homage to Seventies porn actors, with a performance so wooden that the only part of his body that seems to have any character is the part where his brain resides.

In an opening sequence that features Murphy delivering (badly) a monologue describing where his life went wrong, he chides himself for thinking with his genitalia – the reason he is now living with a teenager Omi (Klara Kritin) and a baby. His ranting is cut off in its tracks when he gets a call from his ex-girlfriend Electra’s (Aomi Muyock) mother, informing him that she’s been missing for two months. He spends New Year’s Day reminiscing about the love of his life, especially their sex life, and hating the mother of his child.

 

What sets Noé’s film apart from standard ponographic fare - indeed what sets the director’s oeuvre apart from that of many of his contemporaries - is his visceral brilliance, especially in his use of sound and red lens filters. Apart from a money-shot that splurges out at the audience, he doesn’t use 3D for up-close perspective shots.

His favourite angle for sex scenes is one taken from a light-bulb perspective. The most erotic scene is one involving all three protagonists; other sex scenes include orgies and an ill-advised comic interlude featuring a transsexual.

There is also a lot of masturbation. Mostly in the metaphorical sense and mostly performed by the director. Omi and Murphy's baby is called Gaspar while Electra and Murphy frequent an art gallery called Noé. The director also has a cameo in which he wears a fabulous wig and plays an art dealer.

There are also many shots in which Noé seems to be paying homage to his own oeuvre, especially Irreversible: a passageway that leads to an orgy resembles the subway tunnel where the notorious rape took place, and the colour palette is straight out of Enter The Void.

Also notable are the film posters that appear on walls. Murphy’s favourite film is 2001, although Love plays more like an improvement on Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut

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