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Gaspar Noé's art-house porno Love shocks but does not awe

The Old In-Out, In-Out

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Art house director Gaspar Noé leaves no unpleasant or physically revolting stone unturned. His first full-length effort, 1998's I Stand Alone, was a drama about a lonely butcher and his fractured, unhealthy incestuous fixation with his own daughter. The director's second feature, the reverse chronologically-told Irreversible, centered around an absolutely brutal rape scene that only added further notoriety to the filmmaker's resume. Noé's most recent movie, 2009's Enter the Void, was a strobe-filled, neon nightmare seen through the eyes of a recently deceased drug dealer as he floated through the streets of Tokyo.

His latest, Love, continues down the same path, except this time Noé includes real-life sex scenes to push the boundaries. Even more daring, he shot the film in 3D. Sadly, I wasn't able to catch a 3D screening, and that may be for the best. Being unable to watch Love without its glasses-wearing trappings, I believe, gives viewers a better chance to judge the film on its own merits.

Noé opens Love with a scene of mutual masturbation between Murphy (Karl Glusman) and his girlfriend Electra (Aomi Muyock). That scene ends abruptly when we realize the whole affair is merely a dream as Murphy wakes up beside Omi, the mother of his child.

Thanks to his muttered voice-overs, it's apparent Murphy would be content never to see Omi (Klara Kristin) or his kid again. His bachelor pad, once a haven lined with movie posters, is now a bland home for his new family. He longs for the days of his relationship with Electra.

However, Murphy's days with Electra weren't particularly pleasant. Theirs was a volatile and drug-addled relationship. Aside from all the fighting, Murphy's flashbacks primarily revolve around their sexual encounters when he was still a film student, Electra was an artist, and Omi was merely a bit player in their romantic liaisons.

Like the director's previous films, Love's fractured narrative drops pieces of information throughout. You can think of it as the 500 Days of Summer of art-house porn if you like. And make no mistake, Noé is fully committed to showing his players having sex. There's cunnilingus, analingus, oral sex, anal sex, threesomes, orgies, gay sex, straight sex, gentle sex, rough sex. Noé covers everything under the sexual sun.

That said, Love may very well be Noé's attempt to craft a warm yet melancholy-filled look at young artists in love, albeit a particularly pretentious kind of love. The main character is a film student with a fascination with extreme cinematic fare, the very kind of film that Noé makes. And like most of the main characters in the director's previous work, Murphy is an unlikable guy. Although he's being forced into adulthood, he remains a childish, self-absorbed dick who is unable to separate love and lust.

While some have wondered if Love is autobiographical, there's no mistaking Noé's penchant for self-flagellation and self-referencing in it. In fact, the film features a character named Gaspar and a character named Noé. On top of that the director plays an artist/former boyfriend, complete with his own sex scene.

Love isn't the first time Noé has utilized unsimulated sex scenes in his movie; Enter the Void did so sparingly. Nor are explicit sex scenes new to cineastes. Some might even say that such an approach has become yawningly passé — see The Brown Bunny with Chloë Sevigny and Vincent Gallo. Still, it's safe to say full-on sex won't be popping up in any summer blockbusters any time soon.

Recently, I reviewed Victoria, a drama-thriller that was shot in one take. I mentioned how the film's technique could have turned the film into a pointless stunt, but whereas Victoria by and large succeeded, Love's sex scenes only seem to expose how frustratingly barren the film itself is.

I've walked away from Noé's previous works dazed and confused yet nearly always fascinated. I can't say the same for Love. Considering the director's proclivity towards pushing the visual envelope into levels of discomfort and outrage, it's surprising how lifeless and limp Love actually feels.

Related Film

Love

Official Site: www.ouralchemy.com

Director: Gaspar Noé

Writer: Gaspar Noé

Producer: Gaspar Noé, Rodrigo Teixeira, Edouard Weil, Brahim Chioua and Vincent Miraval

Cast: Karl Glusman, Klara Kristin and Aomi Muyock

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