IRREVERSIBLE
DIRECTOR: Gaspar Noe
FRANCE 2002
CAST: Monica Bellucci as Alex, Vincent Cassell as Marcus, Albert Dupontel as Pierre
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Benoit Debie and Gaspar Noe
MUSIC:    Thomas Bangalter

The director of this film stands alone ... end of story.

And seeing a couple of his films is an extremely unsettling event, regardless of which film, you are going to think about and remember for a while. And it is not so much the stories themselves, as it is how it is presented and the total lack of disregard for story or film conventions and ideas.

While some of these concepts can be brought into the cinema and presented in a more conventional style, let's say that we have an uncut "The Wild Bunch" by Sam Peckingpah, or some of the odd peculiarities that Jean Luc Godard loves to play with, the difference here is that this is unadulterated, outright brutal at times, and it does not compromise, and the cinematography style brings it home and then some. So, you have been forewarned, and it will be highly unlikely that you will be able to catch one of these films on television, and if the curiosity hits you, you will have to visit your local video store and pray hard ... that they have some Foreign Cinema, and perhaps even some art film.

I first saw "Seul Contre Nous" in the Portland Film Festival and it was a film that was brutal ... in essence the only thing that you could say about it, was that we were seeing a man's mind do everything and anything, insane or not ... and we could never make up our minds of what is true or not ... it was pure anarchy, in terms of point of view ... there was no "3rd person" as most cinematic projects undertake and no idealistic concepts ... just pure let it all hang out. And it was brutal, and probably much more so by a soundtrack that worked intentionally on displacing what you are used to seeing in 99 out of 100 films, and not just once, several times! That threw you for a loop, made you jump in your seat, and in the end come away ... wow ... not even knowing what to think or say ... it is as much of a personal attack on everything as it is a social attack on anything, from every possible point of view and circumstance that you can possibly imagine.

Now we come to "Irreversible" ... and the only thing that matters to you, is that the story in this film is going to go backwards to where it might have started. And do not, under any circumstances make any assumptions as to what that means. And that is really all you want to know about the film, and is all that matters. When you know that, at least you can get over the first half and its non-stop style of camera work, and how it achieves a maniacal point of view, that not even most horror films are intelligent enough to consider using. Somehow, I don't think that I want to see Gaspar Noe do a vampire/werewolf story, but he might do a totally unreal Sheridan LeFanu, or Horace Walpole ... or better yet, don't let him read Matthew Gregory Lewis! It will make Ken Russell's The Devils look like child's play!

What blends each scene, or sequence is the camera moving about as if you are looking up into the ceiling or the night sky ... and within the context of the film it is amazing that it works, from the first sequence when Marcus is taken to the hospital, to the one later when Alex is being taken to the hospital ... the patients might not be alive and they are in the gurneys looking up, and you can just imagine what they see or are capable of seeing inside their heads. Those two particular sequences are so well done that the transition is smooth, and ... surprising ... like ... what the heck? And you are seeing another moment in the story.

Is it effective?

Yes.

Does it make good film?

I think so.

Does it justify the concept and the story?

That's not for me to say ... there is a very large of spiritual and religious ideology that believes that "it is all written" and that it can not be changed. There is also another contingent that loves to say that you can change one little thing and it causes the whole path to change ... but, somehow, you don't meet many of those do we? Well, some will have to tell you the story that they did not take this one step, and it was a hole in the ground, but this film, is not ... about an injury. This film is about life!

Like "Seul Contre Nous" the visual depravity of the whole first half of the film adds an amazing amount of adrenaline, as it is fast paced, non-stop and sometimes I would like to say that it over-does it. But what is "over-do"? After all, this was the country that created the guillotine and made a public splendor of humiliation and death, and glorified it in the name of so many ideas ... and when one of their very own nobles wrote something else ... it did not shock them, but it shocked the outside world. It's almost, like this film director is the modern Marquis de Sade ... and he is making a point ... that you are not fighting for a revolution, but for your own desire, your own ... whatever. And in the first half of the film you see somethings that ... could easily be considered the very worst.

The next sequence, which will involve Alex, in a way, is also "Seul Contre Nous" (literal translation is Alone Against All, by the way) and no less demanding and brutal, and conclusive. And, like a lot of films would do, which is "suggest", this one does not! And I suppose that is the one thing that makes these moments so incredible, how much further is this going to go? What else is gonna be done? ... I suppose that we will know soon enough, because that is indeed what this director has done in at least two films.

It is amazing to watch though, if there is a chance that you can separate yourself from the story and the folks in it. I remember writing a film script for a class (Paul Lazarus who had written for Stanley Kramer was the instructor, father of the other Lazarus that wrote Westworld), and I wrote what I saw in my head ... at that point it had no story, but the visuals suggested 2 and possibly 3 story lines, and they appeared to move at the same time film wise ... or inside a person's head (that was the case later cleared up btw! but I had not thought of it at the time, although a scene that suggested that was in there!) ... and one of Paul's comments was ... "you can not jerk people's emotions and imaginations like that" ... "no one will understand it" ... and guess what we are seeing today? In a film class a quarter later, I filmed an automobile accident with an internal shot, a step on the breaks split screened with tires and brakes, and a camera that went wild and lost its focus as I jerked it around in my hand, just like you would lose your sense of anything if you got knocked around or you have ever experienced such a thing. The professor, a different one, thought that "the conceptualization is excellent, and how you put it together is amazingly smooth, considering that you got all these different shots ..."  and somehow they all come together and they make sense ... you can see the accident, and you didn't even have to show the car crashing or something coming to you, as it is common in most films to give you the idea and in the case of cheap horror films ... to give you a "jump" ... and it is far out that I am seeing this 25 years later ... what I saw was right, and the idea was right, only the ability to take it further was not there yet.

In this sense, watching this film is a real trip ... it is so out there ... so different ... that you can not walk away and not react to it. You will remember this, and it might even frighten you, but in the end, I think that the realization that this is not really a film, and that it feels a heck of a lot more like a documentary, or cinema trueverite (instead of the fake type!) ... that has to build things up by putting together a story that has to go backwards until you can see the end. On top of it, there are a lot of camera movement sequences that you have seen or will see in your life ... as you faint, lose consciousness, or dream when you get out of the body ... and as such, a film like this, can be really scary and quite unsettling. And many people can't take it and will leave the theater ... since this is not "entertainment" folks ... get that right now!

It is a very tough film to watch in the first half, and gets easier and ever funnier, and the sex discussion is quite amusing, but even here, you will notice that the camera is ... as if you were sitting a couple of chairs away, drunk, and the perceptions and visuals and words, seem to come and go ... as you watch what you see and try to make sense of it all ... and all you can say is ... it's impossible to make sense, as there might not be any in the first place!

I only have one question ... is Paris all like that? I definitely do not want to visit it, ever! But it is an amazing film, in that someone can use his own improvisational ability with a camera in his hand and create something that is insane, and amazing at the same time. I'm not sure that the brutality is necessary, but somehow the style fits a fast paced style and the camera here ... is just like one of them ... not an outsider, and perhaps this is the point of these films ... this is the point of even making a film, one might ask.

For adults only, and please, only if you are well dedicated to a lot of experimental film and can handle tough stuff.

I can not even tell you how this rates as "acting" ... it just feels so real and next to you and I that ... I never considered thinking that my friends, or myself were acting at all ... and that is what Gaspar Noe is all about ... don't, under any conditions, come to see this because you want to see "acting" ... this is a true Asylum, it just doesn't have a name of Charenton or any other institution! But goodness gracious ... I don't think that you ever thought or had any idea ... what that really meant! Neither did I, or do I claim to!

 

   

      

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