Directed by: Gaspar Noe
Premise: An American living in Paris with his family receives a phone call that his ex-girlfriend has vanished. This sends him into a pensive mood and he reflects on his previous relationship.
What Works: Gaspar Noe is a bold filmmaker with great technical faculty. Movies like Irreversible and Enter the Void take on challenging subjects like death, drugs, and sexual assault and present them in a very in-your-face manner. Throughout his career, Noe presents ugly subject matter through striking imagery and the novelty of the filmmaking craft usually adds new layers of meaning to the subject matter. Love concerns Murphy (Karl Glusman), as he reflects on his relationship with the love of his life, who, critically, is not the woman who is the mother of his child. Murphy’s relationship with Electra (Aomi Muyock) was passionate but also volatile; when the couple seduced a female neighbor into a ménage a trois the other woman got pregnant, thus dooming their relationship. That other woman (Klara Kristin) is now Murphy’s other half and he spends the present tense of the story moping around his apartment, pining for the excitement and passion of his relationship with Electra. Like many of Noe’s movies, the narrative of Love is fragmented with past incidents coming back into the main character’s consciousness seemingly at random. Despite the disjointed narrative structure, Love generally makes sense and attentive viewers ought to be able to put the story together. Like Gaspar Noe’s other movies, Love includes provocative images that are highly stylized. The use of color and light and the unusual placement of the camera forces the audience to look at the lovemaking in a thoughtful way and the style of the sex scenes contrasts with the flat stillness of Murphy’s domestic life.
What Doesn’t: Love is so-titled because the film intends to be a dramatization of what Murphy calls “sentimental sexuality.” While it was apparently Gaspar Noe’s intention to make something like In the Realm of the Senses and Last Tango in Paris, this film falls well short of that and Love would more appropriately be titled Lust. This movie focuses on the sex lives of its characters and there is little else to their relationship. Director Noe has a reputation for pushing boundaries and creating provocative and extreme images; in Love the characters are shown engaging in unsimulated explicit sex. (For theatrical exhibition the movie was shown in 3-D.) The images are composed with Noe’s typical skill and audacity but the sequences of sexual intercourse have very little context and they occur very frequently. The movie just gets monotonous. When the characters aren’t having sex they are usually walking around Paris. In these scenes Love resembles Richard Linklater movies like Before Sunrise but the dialogue is not interesting. That’s a result of characters who have very little internal life. The chronological beginning of this story occurs when Murphy, who is an American film student studying in Paris, meets Electra, a French painter. The character development stops there. We don’t learn anything more about who they are. Throughout the picture they don’t do anything other than blandly discuss their art, ingest booze and drugs, and alternately fight and have sex. Their relationship is passionate and poisonous but the movie is never as interesting as that combination sounds. This goes on for 135 minutes, which is too long for the superficial material. The story is framed so that it begins and ends in the present with Murphy learning that Electra has gone missing, coping with the possibility that she might be dead, and reconciling that the life he was hoping for has gone with her. But the story doesn’t resolve anything and Love begins and ends with a rotten guy feeling sorry for himself.
Bottom Line: Love is an ambitious movie but it’s ultimately facile. The film has some striking images but it reveals nothing about love or lust.
Episode: #571 (November 29, 2015)