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Enter the Void

October 9, 2011

Enter the Void (2009)
Director: Gaspar Noé
Actors: Paz de la Huerta, Nathaniel Brown, Cyril Roy

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Synopsis: An American drug-dealer in Tokyo (Nathaniel Brown) watches over his sister (Paz de la Huerta) after he is killed.

Review: The nemesis of bourgeois film culture is back with another staggeringly brilliant, utterly distinctive piece of work that follows on from his two masterpieces Seule contre tous and the ultra-controversial Irréversible. Once again, Gaspar Noé picks uncompromisingly dark subject matter (the death of a young American drug dealer in Tokyo, and his post-mortem attempts to reconcile the traumas of his past with a desire to see a better life for his pole-dancing sister) and marries it with a pulsating approach to cinematography, editing and lighting. Although Enter the Void clearly peddles a bleak life outlook familar from Noé’s other films, I did detect a marginal concession to narrative coherence and a wider audience with the use of American lead characters and the employment of flashbacks that privilege a form of Freudian/parental sentimentality and angst that is recognisable from themes in Hollywood and other western cinemas.

My only slight critique of Enter the Void is its slippery attitude to drugs – the film goes into such detail about their use and effect (appropriated in the overall style and ambience of the piece), yet it never unequivocally establishes that drugs are surely the film’s main enemy in the way they destroy the lives of all its main characters. The message differs from the violence (and sexual violence) of Irréversible, where I feel Noé makes very clear from the start that his story is a relentless exercise in amorality and the corruptive power of time, so the condoning of any on-screen action is beside the point. Back to Enter the Void though, and what an amazing, spectatorial tour de force it is – a pure cinematic triumph with moments of tenderness and grace to go alongside the undoubted innovation and invention that we have come to know Noé for. (October 2011)

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