Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void was MG's pick and since she likes films with an edge I can understand why, but I did tell her it was the last thing I'd want to see. But fair is fair- we chose the films together and we each had our own selections. Having seen his previous two films, Irreversible and I Stand Alone, I had little enthusiasm to see another one and when I found out the starting time was at 8:30 in the morning I felt a vague sense of dread.
Noe seems to be working hard to create his own little cinematic niche, which I would call either "the cinema of endurance" or more pointedly, "the cinema of audience abuse." At about the forty-five minute mark I wandered into the lobby to find out how much longer it was going to last and a volunteer mistakenly told me the running time was 96 minutes. It actually lasts 156 minutes, so the final hour I sat there feeling like Linda Blair in that scene from The Exorcist when the bed is roiling underneath her, wanting to scream "make it stop! make it stop!" But it just went on. And on. And on.
Although MG liked it, I really can't recall a film I've liked less without resorting to something as old as Caligula or as reprehensible as The Girl Next Door (the only film I actually felt ashamed to have watched afterward).
Noe's first film, I Stand Alone, **SPOILER ALERT** is about a Travis Bickle-like racist who's having an incestuous relationship with his young daughter and proud of it. The final twenty minutes or so is preceded by a flashing "warning" sign telling the audience something awful is about to be revealed. His second film, Irreversible starts off with the notorious, tortuously long rape scene that must last twenty minutes and feels like an eternity and then rewinds itself showing the events leading to the rape. It's fun stuff. Though I admired the audacity of the first film, I found Irreversible a pointless, nasty exercise in gratuitousness.
With Enter the Void, Noe assaults the audience with a hallucinatory odyssey of violence, sex, drugs and death. The first half hour held some promise as we're taken through the seedy underside of Tokyo with some truly impressive camerawork and cgi effects. The characters are intriguing at first, if for no other reason than they seem to be on the verge of disaster. When Oscar, a teenage drug dealer is set up and murdered by the cops, Noe turns the volume up to ear-splitting levels. Same thing when we get to see Oscar's parents die in a horrific car crash. It's aural violence and unfortunately the images are pretty indelible. Noe's a talented filmmaker, but it's a perverse talent that only a few will probably appreciate.
Once he dies, the rest of the film follows Oscar as a ghost. Trying to keep a vow he made to his sister after their parents were killed that they would always be there for one another, Oscar haunts his sister as she deals with grief and a life in Tokyo's underworld that has few options for her. Between flashbacks to his own death and that of his parents, interludes with his sister that border on the incestuous, and a long trip to a love motel featuring some explicit sex, Enter the Void is a two and a half hour hallucinatory journey- a violent, sex-drenched phantasmagoria that leaves one drained and relieved when it's finally over. Enter at your own risk.