Love

'Love' movie poster NSFW

Release: Friday, October 30, 2015 (limited)

[Netflix]

Written by: Gaspar Noé

Directed by: Gaspar Noé

French-Argentinian Gaspar Noé has chosen to follow up his “psychedelic melodrama” Enter the Void with a graphic examination of relationships driven by lust and jealousy, and while it is a warmer film than his previous effortsLove is a far cry from feel-good and offers its own set of challenges. Owed in part to Noé’s fascination with close-ups of body parts — genitals in particular — the film finds the controversial director again exploiting extremes in his quest to understand what exactly love is and what it does to us.

The good news is that Noé gives viewers, the morbidly curious or otherwise, an easy out: the opening frame leaves little doubt as to what you have to look forward to over the next two plus hours (as if the posters don’t). While it is reductive to label Love‘s no-holds-barred depiction of sexual intimacy as pornographic — there’s much to be said about the purpose of these sex scenes versus those created in an industry that’s only interested in form and not function — offhand comments about this being a movie for fetishists I can at least understand as the number of scenes that indulge in excess is in itself excessive.

Centering around Murphy (Karl Glusman), an American ex-pat in Paris studying to become a filmmaker, Love features a brutally nonlinear narrative that intertwines his past and present relationships, making for a rather disorienting, disjointed watch that is on more than one occasion difficult to commit to. Murphy claims to aspire to making films that celebrate our baser instincts but all he really seems to ever accomplish is finding ways to have more intense sex with his nutcase girlfriend Electra (Aomi Muyock). This isn’t the girl we first see him with, however.

We first meet Murphy awakening in an apartment he likens to a prison cell ever since his new girlfriend Omi (Klara Kristin) moved in. This is the girl he now has a child with, but she’s not the one he ‘cares’ about. His drug-addled existence is explored in a meditative, if not meandering story that measures his loss of self-control (and by extent, happiness) by showing us the various stages of both relationships, the latter originating after a night in which Murphy and Electra’s ultimate fantasy is finally realized. Two years after their break-up, when he gets a phone call from her mother telling him Electra has disappeared, Murphy finds himself cast back into the throes of regret. Consequently we’re sucked into his mind, where we’re subjected to a maze of flashbacks intended to demonstrate the unreliability of memory.

In Noé’s neon-tinged world, sex manifests itself both thematically and in the way the narrative expands to encapsulate the life cycle of a relationship, atypical as it may be. The numerous bedroom scenes aren’t created just to rile up audiences, even if stimulation or repulsion is an inevitability. While several scenes carry more than a whiff of misogyny and are shot with a masculine power that’s hard to ignore, aggression also stems from Electra who asks her lover to go to some very dark places in order to please her. Tone plays a huge role in how we perceive the lovemaking. Turns out, both individuals are as depraved as the other. (I don’t know if ‘depraved’ shows some lack of sensitivity on my part but I tend to draw the line where I’m forced to watch people receiving fellatio from transvestites.)

On the matter of Love‘s themes: Noé relies heavily on sexuality and sexual aggression as a means of contrasting cultures — Paris is, after all, the city of love and he thrusts an American into this whirlwind of flesh and fantasy fulfillment. It’s not exactly an exhaustive approach; for as much sex as this movie contains the romance you expect to see surrounding a couple so infatuated with one another is surprisingly sparse, save for a fleeting scene that finds the couple meeting for the first time in public — Murphy playfully chastising Electra for not having seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, his favorite film, and she reciting lines from her favorite Robert Frost poem.

The word of the day certainly seems to be ‘intense,’ for Love is an intensely internalized realization. The majority of the film takes place within Murphy’s memory as he tries desperately to reconcile what he has lost with his current romantic life: “I’m so tired of this bitch.” Whatever happened to Electra? What would have happened to her if she never knew Murphy? Was this fate? Is that oh-so-coveted feeling truly sustainable, for human beings are such selfish creatures.

Unfortunately by the time the shower scene commences we’re entirely unsure of what to think. The film is a test of endurance, not simply due to the content but the glacial pacing that finds its actors shuffling between discreet underground night clubs, the S&M and all of that. Lost in a perpetual haze of lust and thrill-seeking, we’re dared to watch committed acts of unsimulated sex. But Noé isn’t that shallow. There’s more to all of this than masturbatory imagery, though I can’t put my finger on what that is specifically. Maybe that’s the point.

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Recommendation: Love finds Gaspar Noé doing a lot of soul-searching in a decidedly passionate, if muddled, examination of human relationships and what causes them to deteriorate. He is a filmmaker who doesn’t make concessions for the mainstream. Love is an extreme film and it should be approached with caution by anyone who thinks they can handle it. 

Rated: NC-17

Running Time: 135 mins.

Quoted: “If you fall in love, you’re the loser.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed, written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.blogs.indiewire.com; http://www.collider.com 

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23 thoughts on “Love

    • Oh come on, it’s a classic! (not!)

      Hey friend, welcome back from Italia! Can’t wait to catch up on your posts. (Will there be some?/are there already some?)

      • Thanks!

        Hahaha, well, slowly but surely they will start up today. I will do a post at some stage about the wedding and Italy, but for now just starting up on the movies and books again 🙂

  1. My problem with this film is the same problem I have with most Gasper Noe films which is that its shocking just for the sake of being shocking. Agree with a lot of your points but altogther I kinda hated this.

  2. I’m a little embarrassed that I actually thought Love would be better than it was. Between the tone-deaf writing and the Tommy Wisseauesque writing, this was a tough one to sit through. I really enjoyed your review of it though.

    • Oh man, I didn’t think it was quite that bad. But yeah it definitely could’ve used some work. I didn’t understand why there was quite such a reliance on graphic sex to push the narrative forward, but hey. I’d take this over Irreversible any day

  3. Have you seen Irreversible? Man, that’s a tough watch. Brilliant, but tough. Loved Enter the Void too which primes me for this latest from the enfant terrible. He does love controversy doesn’t he?!

    • I have seen the two horrendous acts of violence from that movie, out of morbid curiosity. I effectively have scared myself away from seeing it in full although from what I gather those bits are the worst of it. I don’t know if I’m in any hurry to actually get back to it. I personally cannot stand rape scenes. And yeah, this guy courts controversy like Andy Dick courts weiners

  4. Nice review, Tom! Glad you got something out of this one. I haven’t reviewed it & don’t know when or if I will but I know it’ll be my lowest rated movie since starting my blog. I hated it! Not because of the sex or anything like that. I’m no prude. 😉 I just thought that watching an actual porn would’ve been more entertaining as the acting would’ve been no worse & the people no less hateful. Plus, there’s almost a story to those sometimes. As far as I’m aware. I have no idea…. 😶 I hated this from start to finish but, well, at least I got some blog posts finished while it was on in the background. So it was good for something. 🙂

    • I personally saw it as an interesting rumination on the way people have relationships in a modern era. It’s not pretty and it’s kind of depressing. I liked it but see where it didn’t work for others (maybe everyone else)

    • Gaspar Noé has made a career out of controversial films. Good of him, I say even if Irrervsible was the most stomach-turning thing ever

  5. I spotted this was on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. It got panned when it was released over here, although I think a few reviewers commented on the novelty of the 3D sex. Sounds like you got on with it OK. I’m definitely intrigued!

    • Cool! Well I hope you get something out of it if you choose to sit down and watch it. It’s interesting for sure

      • I’ll definitely watch it ‘properly’ but it’s also something I’ll stick on in the background when the in-laws are round for elevenses! My mother-in-law will go beetroot red.

        • Now THIS….this is the comment of the year. Hahah! Fantastic, and I can totally understand that. This is definitely one of those….erm, more private watches? I guess? Lol

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