Enter the VoidReviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 10/02/10 14:55:14
A lot of Gaspar Noé's "Enter the Void" unfolds through the eyes of its protagonist Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) — literally. The camera takes his point of view to the extent of blinking when he blinks. I, on the other hand, spent much of the two hour-and-18-minute running time not blinking.Enter the Void is not for the impatient (or those susceptible to motion sickness, since Noé's vertiginous camera swirls around near-constantly during the last hour or so); it's a massive, epic experiment that asks and presumes to answer the biggest of big questions — what happens after you die? Oscar, a low-level American drug dealer living in Tokyo with his exotic-dancer sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta), is shot by police early on in the film, and most of the subsequent narrative follows his soul, or his spirit, or whatever, as it floats around Tokyo keeping tabs on the people he knew in life. There's his scruffy friend Alex (Cyril Roy), who has a crush on Linda. There's one of his buyers Vincent (Olly Alexander), whose mother has slept with Oscar on the sly. There's his supplier Bruno (Ed Spear), said to have strange predilections involving ripe young buyers. We also travel with Oscar into his past, marred by his parents' car accident when he and Linda were very young, and scarred by their resultant lack of development — Oscar has a definite mother/sister/breast fixation, and Linda herself likes to kiss Oscar in a decidedly unsisterly way.
If you're going to make a lengthy meditation on life and afterlife, you might as well set it in the seamy sections of neon-drenched Tokyo, present a drug dealer and a stripper as your leads, and top it all off with gouts of state-of-the-art fractal eye-fucks. (I'd hardly expect a bold filmmaker to tell this story from the viewpoint of a film critic. Blink, watch a movie, blink, eat some pizza and surf the web, blink, write the review...) Enter the Void is a monster, often mesmerizing, sometimes trying. Noé, author of the polarizing and galvanizing I Stand Alone and Irreversible, sets the movie up as his grand statement, the dense volume his other work was leading up to. It attempts to nail down, in pure-cinema vocabulary, the highest of high mysteries — the eternal yin/yang connection between sex and death, eros and thanatos.
Nobody will remember this for the performances, although Paz de la Huerta's furiously grieving Linda has a formidable freak-out, and the non-actor Cyril Roy makes something scuzzily amiable out of Alex. Nathaniel Brown, another non-actor, is blank in a way that works for the film, since Oscar's experience is supposed to be ours (and we hardly ever see anything other than the back of his head anyway). The Oscar's-POV style pulls us into his head, and even if we wouldn't do what he does, or don't share his particular psychological quirks, we're with him by cinematic default. The look of the film is by turns grainy, razor-sharp, blurry, elegiac, normal, neon-strobe hell. Whatever team gets to master this beast for Blu-ray has their work cut out for them. Oh, and at one point we and Oscar go on a floating tour through the "Love Hotel," where various couples go at it joyously or joylessly, their naughty bits glowing or giving off wafts of sexual energy visible, I suppose, only to voyeuristic spirits.
Enter the Void takes us up to the moment of death and beyond — convincingly, I guess; certainly nobody else has conducted an inquiry into these matters at such length and at such an intense pitch. The movie is metaphysically disorienting — you carry it with you after it's over, because you're still blinking, and you still feel as though you're in Oscar's headspace. Noé clearly expended an inhuman amount of effort and imagination and post-production elbow grease; if he announced that this would be his swan song, I wouldn't be surprised — how do you follow up Enter the Void? The film will strike viewers as brilliant and profound, or vapid and pretentious, in roughly equal measure, much like Noé's other work; it can stand alongside recent cult epics like Synecdoche, New York and Inception, and may even come within semen-spurting distance of Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Kieslowski — poet-philosophers who brought their rigorous yet becalmed vision to bear on the essence of this trip we're all on.A gauntlet has been thrown here, I feel. Noé is not the first to try the individual tricks here, but the way he puts them all together, in service of something far larger than just a movie, is ferociously and uniquely his own. Whether you adore or loathe it, it takes a fearless, barrier-shattering behemoth like this film to kick a slumbering cinema up a step or two. "Enter the Void" is a genuine next-level achievement.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|