Director: Gaspar Noe
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In the episode “A Scandal in Belgravia” from BBC’s Sherlock there is a scene in which Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft- acted as a humorous lizard by Mark Gatiss- ring in the new year with a cigarette while staring out into the snowy night. A woman dear to Holmes has just been found dead, sort of, and Mycroft asks his younger sibling if she was the one. The one what? The one woman, Mycroft says. Sherlock ponders this for a beat and then speaks. The one woman. The woman. The one woman that matters.
Gaspar Noe’s 2015 film Love, coming 5 years after his critically acclaimed brain-frying Enter the Void, concerns the woman- not only if she mattered but the the process of drowning in a neon pool of regret at the knowledge that she is gone forever. The film opens- like that Sherlock episode- on January 1 and this is where it stays, as Murphy (Karl Glusman) takes ecstacy or something and remembers what he had with the woman in question, Electra (first-timer Aomi Muyock, who actually looks like Marvel’s Elektra) and wonders what could have been in the two years since he ruined everything forever.
Love is one sexy ass film as Noe intended it to be. Ever the boundary pusher Noe goes deeper and darker into the things that Americans consider taboo, namely how sex is presented in a film. As an American viewer how far Noe goes with this- from unsimulated sex to full in-your-face ejaculations (the film was shot in 3D and what a wonder that would have been to behold) to an orgy club to the view of a penis from inside a vagina- is surprising and at times shocking but I’m not condemning it. Because of where I live sex is portrayed in a politically correct manner and I applaud Noe for working to break us of that. Love does for sex what Enter the Void did for drugs- particularly DMT. It’s okay for films to show the real thing, including sex and drugs, and it’s due to our pussy-ass PC culture that we’re trapped in a safe space bubble of fake. There is a nod to Enter the Void’s LOVE hotel that I want to buy and put in my bed room but the connections to that film stop there.
This is perhaps Noe’s most personal film- or at least the most on-the-nose personal.
“Living with a woman is like sharing a bed with the CIA.” So says Murphy, an angsty American film student in Paris who is both an asshole and a tender soul searching for L-O-V-E. Glusman plays him fine with my favorite parts of his performance being the real-time thoughts being voiceovered from his brain as he conducts his current adult life. The two women in his life- newcomers Muyock and Klara Kristin- both present strong performances and drive the film’s feminist attitude. There is a splash painting in Murphy’s bedroom of what looks like a uterus. Watching Glusman and Muyock walk around together brings with it a river of trickling memories both uncomfortable and beautiful. I didn’t identify with much of anything in Enter the Void but I see so much of myself and my past in Love I feel as if Noe had a peek in my journal.
Benoit Debie- responsible for the neon-swamped nightmares in both Noe’s Irreversible and Enter the Void- lenses Love in a way that makes you consider Noe to be the anti-Wes Anderson. The color palette is there, especially when looking at past and present configurations of Murphy’s apartment where most of the film takes place, with a hellish red for the relationship he was in and a boring highlighter green for the family life he now occupies. There are no side-scrolling shots but there are plenty overhead views of people- sometimes 3- in bed and many doorway scenes. There is a grotesquely funny nod to Irreversible‘s most haunting scene.
How could something so wonderful bring such great pain? Love isn’t about regret although it clings to Murphy like a disease. Even though it’s going to fucking hurt the L-word is still worth it. There is more than one kind of romantic love. Everything dies and all hearts are eventually broken. You don’t need to see all of Love to get that and it might be better for you because the film begins to deteriorate almost in real-time with Murphy and Electra’s relationship. This is perhaps Noe’s most personal film- or at least the most on-the-nose personal. The man has been in love and he has surely seen it all fall apart. Strolling down some version of memory lane for a little over 2 hours I’m right there with him.