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Overall Rating
3.61

Awesome: 29.41%
Worth A Look30.39%
Average: 22.55%
Pretty Bad: 6.86%
Total Crap: 10.78%

6 reviews, 66 user ratings


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Irreversible
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Gaspar, put down the camera and step away from it slowly"
3 stars

IRREVERSIBLE is a cheap, nihilistic, meaningless, intellectually empty movie that blew me away. It raises serious questions—quite by accident, of course—about the relationship between style and content. The film has far too much of the former and virtually none of the latter, and it’s not immediately clear whether its impressively executed animal-panic frenzy trumps its essential vacuity. I have to say, finally, that it does not. Watching it was a nearly overwhelming sensuous experience; thinking about it afterwards, though, it evaporated in my mind like a bad dream. The movie just doesn't hang together, except perhaps at the most basic gut level, the reptilian brain that feeds off unadulterated sex and violence. This is the cinematic equivalent of smoke and mirrors. But it’s a great show while it lasts.

I don't believe I'll ever forget this movie, which left my nerves jangling all the way to the parking lot; I literally couldn't find my car, so dazed was I. IRREVERSIBLE has been causing similar nervous reactions all over the world. Mass walkouts were reported at Cannes. The controversy centers on a ten-minute rape scene, which is indeed lengthy and graphic but hardly unprecedented in cinema. To cite one example, the rape scene in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE runs three times as long. (There’s really nothing here that wasn’t done sometime in the Seventies; if you know anything about the X-rated “roughies” of that decade, then you get my meaning.)

It is, however, a uniquely disturbing film—not because of this scene or that scene but because of the manner in which director Gaspar Noé has assembled the whole. With its jerky, wobbly handheld camerawork—it was shot in grainy Super 16—and an infernally cacophonous soundtrack, the film achieves a raw, continuous immediacy. It is absolute hell to watch. It’s like being trapped in a funhouse: you never know what’s going to pop out of the shadows. And it is disorientingly manic—this movie makes FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS look like EMPIRE. The result is bizarrely gripping, even though you suspect all the while that it’s just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

The film is told in twelve scenes, presented in backwards order. It opens with the end credit sequence, which scrolls backwards, the words reversed. The plot, which is fairly clear from the get-go, is your basic rape-revenge material—beginning with the revenge, as you might have guessed. From its morbidly sleazy opening, it progresses through the already notorious rape scene, and concludes (begins?) with a blisteringly ironic “happy” ending, as Monica Bellucci reposes blissfully ignorant that she’ll soon be sodomized and beaten into a coma.

On one level, IRREVERSIBLE is, undeniably, a cheap joke. Noé all too clearly revels in the unpleasantness. He gives us sleaziness for its own sake. During the rape scene, a figure enters the far background, stares a moment, then leaves. Why does Noé include this detail? No particular reason—he’s already shown us a man getting his head bashed in with a fire extinguisher, so why not? The dialogue (which was improvised) is often ludicrously obscene; the actors are so incessantly foul-mouthed it becomes unintentionally funny. (The film may hold the all-time record for use of the word fag. The French are still world leaders, I tell you.) In this respect, IRREVERSIBLE brings back unpleasant memories of another French export, the disastrously bad RAPE ME. Noé's film can’t be so easily dismissed, but the bad-taste parallels are there.

Worst of all, though, IRREVERSIBLE isn’t really about anything. The backwards plot is simply a gimmick; stunts like this seem to have become popular among directors who have nothing to say (e.g., RUN LOLA RUN), but a simple avant-garde device can’t substitute for depth. And Noé seems to think it can. He also seems to think it means something when his characters have “premonitions” of events we’ve already seen—but this is just easy irony. The only conceivable message you could get here is “time destroys all things”—the first and last lines of the film—which I think is supposed to be the Gallic version of “life’s a bitch and then you die.”

And yet…and yet…and yet there’s no denying that Noé can hold an audience. His film is driven by pure energy; even the quieter scenes have an edgy tension. Considered on purely audio-visual terms, it’s an impressive achievement—a wild jungle of a movie. Too bad he doesn’t know what to do with his technical expertise. He can give us amazing scenes, but he can’t tell us anything about life—except, apparently, that it’s pointless.

I’m not sure whether I could recommend this movie. It can do terrible things to your constitution. Of course, for some that’s just fine—and for others that’s the only thing that matters.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6922&reviewer=223
originally posted: 03/04/03 20:53:44
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/05/17 Leslie Creeper "Irreversible" has an anal-rape scene with Monica Bellucci that makes me so wet. 5 stars
8/14/16 Muncus Difficult to watch at time but will sear a place into your memory like A Clockwork orange. 5 stars
5/06/15 stanley welles a powerful, electrifying work 4 stars
8/24/13 guts disagree with the 'our responses' part.show the shit and we see the shit? thats not cinema 2 stars
7/27/13 PAUL SHORTT WELL MADE BUT HARROWINGLY UGLY AND UNPLEASANT 2 stars
7/17/13 Langano Pointless 2 stars
5/02/12 Marty really good. Acting and direction mostly great. Direction does get annoying. good story 4 stars
9/11/11 Peep Certainly well-crafted, compelling cinema for an older set 4 stars
7/05/11 Sudaca Euro show americans??? Noe is argentinian hence american. 3 stars
6/14/11 mr.mike Did not work for me. 3 stars
11/04/10 Coma Hard to watch, but beautifully shot and well-crafted. 5 stars
10/29/10 Karamashi Harrowing, hard to watch but good. Not enjoyable in the least bit. 4 stars
2/08/10 Dean m The whole film turns gay men into the worst embodiment of male sexuality... 3 stars
7/28/09 JW Noe means "No" 1 stars
7/01/09 ms misunderstood tragic story, very disturbing, monica bellucci, such a brave, great actress 4 stars
2/04/09 CineNatoning Who doesn't love this movie with all their heart? Shoulda won the Palm d'Or. 5 stars
4/09/08 Loz pierre did not kill le tenia, it was the other man who tried to rape marcus. look closely. 4 stars
4/08/08 Jack Sommersby Like "Kids", it's amoral and nihilistic to the nth degree. 1 stars
9/29/07 saurs What about the Cassel character wanting anal sex and spitting in Bellucci's face? 2 stars
8/22/07 Kim this film made me disgusted and thrilled to still be alive! it's just SO gut-wrenching... 4 stars
6/01/07 Carls Rating irrelevent. Credit due to brave acting but this isn't art. Ms Flinn, you're sick. 1 stars
5/21/07 sunny realistic work.powerfull.successful because it delivers the message that it wants to delive 4 stars
1/26/07 Artist Bill 2 yrs later it still shocks me to think of it..rocks you 5 stars
12/08/06 llaith Cinima ultimately is about invoking a response in the viewer. This does. Worthwhile. 5 stars
9/09/06 Diane Flinn I have to admit that, even as a woman, I found the anal rape of the young woman so erotic. 5 stars
9/05/06 Shaw This is a disguisting movie i dunno what the the fuk is wrong with the director 1 stars
11/01/05 Indrid Cold Dark, arty, baffling, distrubing. Worth a look if you're in the mood. 4 stars
10/03/05 malcolm gratuitous, but interesting, only for the most jaded of film fans 3 stars
9/26/05 a. kurlovs a bit too pretentious, but overall well made 4 stars
7/09/05 Marc Nond Realistic, shocking, disconnected, the last half doesn't quite make up for it.. if u stayed 2 stars
2/05/05 Elaine Bradley I found Monica Bellucci's anal rape scene a must-see cinematic event. 5 stars
12/04/04 K. Sear Memento only more violent. The story is dull, ones attention is kept with flash. 1 stars
11/18/04 Carly Austin It almost feels wrong to rate it highly, but you'll never forget the emotions it stirs. 5 stars
8/27/04 WolfKitty Go watch it and make ur own mind up. 4 stars
8/11/04 Jeffrey Benedict Watch it and learn from it. 5 stars
8/07/04 Povilas Smolskas Disturbing, violent, gory, bloody.. realistic --> 5 stars
6/04/04 H masterpiece 5 stars
5/20/04 tatum Once again, Euros show Americans how to make flicks you'll remember, not "Shrek"! 4 stars
4/24/04 eddie moyer it was shocking and confusing at the start but overall i enjoyed it 4 stars
3/29/04 Ronaldo there was said, this film should be very violent... in my opinion it wasn't violent enough. 4 stars
2/04/04 Mark Mathews Your life will be better off without seeing this film 1 stars
2/02/04 M Ganesh If you are not moved by this film, then you maybe living posthumously. 1 stars
1/25/04 Julia Paschoal A highly disturbing movie and an amazingly well-constructed narrative. 5 stars
1/23/04 george gilbert One of the most brilliant films in 25 years. A masterwork. It tells the truth about t 5 stars
1/21/04 Daniel Hoffman Disturbing, yes, but brilliant. Give it a chance. I challenge you to not be moved. 5 stars
1/12/04 C. Marsh A difficult film to "like" but impossible not to be effected by 4 stars
12/30/03 jenelee i loved monica the rest of the film was pure shock value - no storyline , lame 1 stars
11/14/03 stalker Powerful in its visual appeal and unforgettable performances 5 stars
11/13/03 Jastin Kam worth to tought of your love ones 3 stars
10/28/03 joe m terrifying, astounding, mindblowing & thought-provoking 5 stars
10/26/03 Axel Chocking and disgusting, yet very well made 2 stars
9/18/03 John40 Best movie so far this year. 5 stars
9/16/03 paul f very distrubing, a gem in film making. so much form not much for substance. 4 stars
8/20/03 cory bilicko its effects are "irreversible." 5 stars
8/10/03 Rocky Masterfully executed, most intense rape/face bashing scenes ever, NOT a date flick. 4 stars
6/28/03 Sugarfoot Shocking, almost as disturbing as Last House On The Left... 5 stars
6/20/03 Poo Best movie ever 5 stars
6/07/03 Lisa Millar Stunning! Best movie I have seen all year- electric performances all round. 5 stars
5/12/03 Mitsaso Homophobic??U can see Noe jerking off in "Rectum"!!! 5 stars
4/03/03 J Bennett Damn disturbing. Damn boring. Damn hot Belucci. Damn average overall. 4 stars
3/26/03 Angolmois Limp wristed philistines will hate this movie, but it will stay with them forever. 4 stars
3/15/03 Colin Selby A WASTE OF SPACE 2 stars
3/13/03 adamndirtyape Unbelievable crap. 1 stars
3/13/03 Number 655321 Hot steamin' bowl of shite...Abusive and condescending tripe. 1 stars
3/13/03 mr. Pink Very disturbing, brilliant camerawork, deeply unsettling, great acting....Powerful!!! 5 stars
3/07/03 GD Williamson Witless, trite homophobic shit... oh wait, I mean "intelligent and deep". My mistake. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Mar-2003 (NR)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Feb-2004




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