September 09, 2011

Enter The Void - Review

ENTER THE VOID, the psychedelic thriller by visionary French maverick Gaspar Noé (Director of other films such as IRREVERSIBLE and I STAND ALONE), is a hallucinogenic thrill ride that's gained my respect for being one-hundred-proof unfiltered weirdness. Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta star in a visceral journey set against the thumping, neon club scene of Tokyo, which hurls the viewer into an astonishing trip through life, death, and the universally wonderful and horrible moments between.

An immersible and just plain mind-bending experience - When a drug deal at the Tokyo nightclub The Void goes sour, mortally wounded Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) achieves cosmic consciousness. His spirit soars over the cityscape; Noé's camera, shooting from Oscar's point of view, captures that neon hell in all its sordid beauty. Riffing through Oscar's life, we see moments of terror, awe and love.

As his spirit hovers around to observe the people he was closest to at the time of his death, before possibly choosing to reincarnate. This view of the afterlife is reportedly a loose interpretation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is directly referenced in the movie.

In any case, Noé goes for the most extreme of cinematic experiences: he presents this story strictly from the point-of-view of his main character, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), which means that, yes, when he's dead, we still see what he sees as he floats along the sky, through walls, and in and out of people's heads.

Noé additionally makes Oscar an American drug dealer who has a stripper sister (Paz de la Huerta), all living in neon-saturated Tokyo, which couldn't be more appropriate as a location for this film. The
trippy experience of watching this is, in a word, unforgettable. I've never ridden a breakneck roller coaster while tripping, but I imagine this is what it's like.

Me simply trying to explain it here does not do it justice, and trust me, if you didn't like his previous film, "Irreversible", then you won't like this one. Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey came to mind as well as I was watching this. As a visual FX movie it is original and spectacular in its own right, in fact there's camera work in this movie that I can only speculate as to how the director achieve it. The special effects are abstract, but on a technical level it is vastly impressive on a whole other level.

As dazzling and exciting as "Enter the Void" can be, I've heard from many people who did NOT enjoy the movie described it as too arty and indulgent, with imagery created only for the sake of shock value, and suffers from being too repetitious for its own good. I understand their point of view. The film is not for anyone, it may shock and offend many, but I still admired the filmmaker's tenacity for doing it.That is not to say that I don't recognize the director's garish tendencies, and that is why this film isn't for everyone.

In the end, for me, the much stronger impression comes from the film never breaking form -- the discipline on display here, to stick with this concept and to execute it with consistency and fearlessness, is intense and considerable. It speaks volumes, earning Noé the right to be labeled "visionary".

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