Posts Tagged ‘Nauseating’

Film Reviews!: Enter the Void

December 24, 2010

I woke up today still feeling off-kilter from the previous night’s endeavor.  After seeing Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void one can only be so lucky as to call their disposition ‘slightly off-kilter.’  While I realize that every other critic has taken the opportunity to quip something along the lines of Noe’s work being an “assault,” it’s very hard to write anything adverse to this notion or even ancillary to it.  Simply put, Noe’s recent work is a difficult watch, and not strictly for its content, but rather, its style.

Noe’s 154-minute epic chronicling the AFTER-life of a Tokyo-based drug dealer maintains an unrelenting visual and audible affront on the audience.  With a constant, nagging strobe effect, Gaspar makes the gaudy neon glare of Tokyo all the more unwavering.  For what he clearly seeks to accomplish, it works, however, the methodology behind this choice remains ambiguous.  While I cannot champion unique editing and production concepts enough, Enter the Void utilizes techniques and forms that seem to be entirely antithetical to the story being told.  The general feeling becomes that Noe is simply recycling his favorite cinematic devices from past endeavors (i.e. Irreversible) that he feels comfortable with and that he is certain set him apart.  These cinematic constructs feel tacked on, not organic in and of themselves.  The story’s methodical, reflective, contemplative pace doesn’t really lend to the persistent annoyance of the strobe effect.  The strobing, in fact, typically took away from the story’s unfolding, as the audience is continually pulled out of the action onscreen and made cognizant of the visual barrage Gaspar is clearly perpetrating.  And while it can be argued that this was his end intent, one would think that Noe went to an awful lot of work in story building and production design only to purposefully distract and detract from the piece onscreen.

The performances are interesting from a technical standpoint as two of the three main characters are not actors in a traditional sense, and this film is their actual onscreen debut.  Oscar, through whom the entire story is told, presents almost no persona to grasp any semblance of character off of.   And while it can both be argued that he is constantly in a d drug-induced mental fog OR that NOE wanted the audience to be able to implant themselves as the main character, there are far too many personal moments in the film’s reflective story that require some sort of response from Oscar.  Big, ridiculous moments that deal with incest, loyalty, personal, psychological trauma, separation, loss, and love make this film far too intimate and individualized to argue that the audience should be able to implant as the character.  Oscar has far too much baggage and emotional investment in the story to merely serve as an empty canister for the audience.  Further, even if that was his goal, the audience cannot function well as their own hero when every element of their story is so sincerely drawn up for them.

Meanwhile, Alex, the other non-actor played by Cyril Roy, does a well-enough job to not merit any harsh criticism on his performance.  His point of view and desires are typically clear and without confusion, and he actually comes across making stronger decisions than Linda, (played by Paz de la Huerta) the single ‘formal’ actor in the entirety of the cast of main characters.  Much about de la Huerta’s performance leaves a great deal to be desired.  The audience knows next to nothing about her adolescence (roughly ages 5-18) and when she stops off the plane in Tokyo she seems very well-disciplined and put-together.  Within the course of what then seems like two days, she divulges into a train wreck of a human being.  And it’s very hard to find any semblance of compassion or care for the character.  Her constant disaffected countenance (whether supposedly elicited by a drug-induced stupor or by her now defunct sense of self-worth) never really amounts to any sort of tangible character progression or regression or even digression.  More or less, the character of Linda functionally becomes more of an object to be desired or cared for or missed by Oscar than she ever was an actual character.

The score is something else entirely as its pulsating, rhythmic undulations constantly underline the visual effects of Gaspar’s never-ending strobe.  Its entire goal is to further herald the sickeningly methodical pace of the film, and for that it certainly accomplishes what it needs.  The problem, again, is that this never seems to coincide with the STORY of the film.  At no point during the story’s evolution does it seem to fit to have a droning, cattywampus score playing alongside the action onscreen.  It acts as a deterrent to anything meshing onscreen and seems to be an element brought in from the past that acts more as a device than any sort of cinematic complement or even addition.

If there’s one thing that doesn’t seem entirely counter-intuitive to the entirety of the production it’s the cinematography.  Noe has an incredible eye for telling the most breath-taking story possible through multiple lens’, cranes, cameras, and angles.  The midnight Tokyo cityscape is simply electric through Gaspar’s lens with all its neon glory.  While the multiple crane shots do begin to become old hat in the film’s third hour, they do provide an incredible, sweeping sensation that adds to the post-mortem crux of the story.

One of the most incredible aspects of the camerawork, however, would have to be Gaspar’s mobilization of the audience’s gaze.  When Oscar is alive, the audience sees everything through his eyes…literally.  In a first-person format, Oscar IS the camera.  What he sees, we see directly, and nothing else.  Oscar’s blinks even register and play into the equation.  After Oscar’s demise, flashbacks are generally taken in third person, over Oscar’s shoulders.  And when not in flashback, we are back to what is most likely first person, riding with Oscar’s disembodied spirit through space and time, sans blinks.  It really is a fascinating technique and works well for what Noe seeks out of his screenplay.

Despite the incredible visuals, however, Noe simply can’t seem to get a hold on the feel of the movie.  One of the best examples I can think of is the very introduction to the film itself.  The flick opens with an incredibly fast-paced, manic, epic title sequence that readies the viewer for something so grand, so crazed, so frenzied, so berserk that the audience simply cannot wait to see what’s next.  This state of hyper-stimulation and aggressive display are then transitioned into an incredibly lax, languid moment in the script that does little to ever appropriately amp up.  And that’s the entirety of this effort, visuals and audio that tells the audience one thing while the story tells it another.

Score/Sound: 57/100

Screenplay/Story: 54/100

Performance/Direction: 32/100

Cinematography: 70/100

Overall: 50/100