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May 20, 2016

Love (2015)
Director: Gaspar Noé
Actors: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin

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Synopsis: Murphy (Karl Glusman) is an expat American living in Paris. One morning, he wakes up with his now partner, Omi (Klara Kristin) and their young son, yet his conscience is troubled by memories of his passionate ex-lover, Electra (Aomi Muyock).

Review: We feel like we know where we’re at when Love opens up on the striking image of a man and woman explicitly pleasuring each other. It’s the seemingly provocative emblem of what would be Gaspar Noé’s latest ‘long day’s journey into the night’ of human experience; yet interestingly, the tenor of the scene softens into something much more tender and sensitive, moving further away from those initial connotations of smut.

As a whole, this opening sequence functions as apt microcosm for the workings and sensibility of the film. As we’ve come to expect with Noé, it’s a formally very proficient and immersive work: especially effective in its framing and the mesmeric cuts through which Murphy remembers his various sexual escapades across time (although it’s usually between the present of his drab, domestic life and the past of his passionate, epochal relationship with Electra.) Noé also indulges his penchant for the tracking shot, and watching this technique for the umpteenth time, I was reminded these marvels of camerawork and logistics are as much commentaries on time as they are on space – there’s something quite gripping about the ‘real time’ sense of something unfolding as Murphy wakes up into a nauseous fog and begins to unpick the banality and trauma of his present circumstances.

Where perhaps Love is of less substance than its propulsive predecessors Irréversible and Enter the Void is that where those films had an in-built seriousness and logic of technique merging into their stories, here the ‘extremism’ of form and content lacks any real depth. The references certainly seem blithe (the autobiographical and psychological lameness of having characters called Electra and Gaspar, and the gauche referencing of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a famous Robert Frost poem) – although there is a certain level of gallows humour underpinning much of the film.

The increasing shallowness of Noé’s storytelling in Love is betrayed by him falling back on his old trope of reversing time to (in this case) the poignant and seminal first meeting of Murphy and Electra – and juxtaposing that with Murphy’s present, tortured state. The problem is that this shift doesn’t elicit as much meaning as Irréversible‘s relentless stampede back through time, and feels more a ragged attempt to extract pathos from a snapshot of the primal infancy of love. (May 2016)

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