by George Wolf
Anyone familiar with cinematic boundary-pusher Gaspar Noe probably wasn’t too surprised when the nature of Noe’s latest project began to leak out.
“3D porn? Oh, yeah, that sounds like something he would do.”
Well, Love is here, and while it is in 3D and does feature graphic, un-simulated sex, it’s ultimately anchored by a rumination that manages to resonate beyond pure shock value.
Originally conceived as a vehicle for Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel (the married stars of Noe’s Irreversible), Love was put on hold when the couple balked at sharing their intimacies so explicitly. Instead, Noe entrusts relative unknowns to propel his most personal film to date, and more often than not, it works.
Karl Glusman is Murphy, a young American studying film in Paris. He meets the beguiling Electra (Aomi Myock) at a party, and they begin a passionate relationship. As they push each other to explore sexual fantasies, the pretty Omi (Klara Kristin) moves in next door, and they all begin to explore each other, which seldom ends well.
Jumping back and forth through different phases in Murphy and Electra’s affair, Noe immerses you in the gamut of emotions involved in such an intense attachment. There is no buildup to the scenes of real sex, Noe opens the film with one (of course he does). But more than a selfish move of defiance (I’m looking at you, Lars von Trier), it’s a tactic meant to accustom you to the surroundings, so to speak, while Noe explores his softer side.
When Electra asks “Can you show me how tender you can be?” it’s just one of the many personal markers Noe leaves along the film’s trail.
Murphy’s apartment is adorned with movie posters from some very deliberate titles, there are supporting characters named both Gaspar and Noe, and Murphy proudly declares he believes films should consist of “blood, sperm and tears.”
Check, check, and check.
The three main performers stumble on moments where inexperience is evident, but when mixed with the naïveté of their characters, they emerge as awkwardly endearing.
Ironically, as hardcore as the film is, an unnecessary use of 3D is one of the few aspects that smack of excessive over- indulgence. The graphic scenes get Noe’s trademark extended takes, but they carry narrative weight beyond simple titillation. In the filmmaker’s own terms, think more Irreversible and less Enter the Void.
The sex, and the sexual politics, that Love puts right in your face will not sit well with many, but those in it for the long haul will actually find Noe at his most gentle.