Friends: The jury could have quite a dilemma on its hands deciding the merits of Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void," a wildly audacious and inventive hallucination of a film. Its doubtful they'll have the courage to give it the Palm d'Or, but best director honors would not be out of order at all, unless its explicit, unjudgemental portrayal of sex and drugs is too much for the woman dominated jury (5-4). At least it's light on the violence, especially compared to his two other films "I Stand Alone" and "Irreversible."
The film opens with a giant, bold, vibrating "Enter" with abrasive music. The rest of the title isn't given until the conclusion of the movie. In between, for more than two hours and forty minutes, ten minutes longer than its announced running time, we are taken into the dark disturbing world of a somewhat innocent young American dealing drugs in Tokyo until he is murdered. Then we relive his short life and follow the aftermath of his murder, mostly the effect on his dancer sister, from a camera drifting above, usually just above the action, but sometimes higher and all without any commentary from the brother or insinuations that his spirit is involved at all.
The brother and sister made a pact when they were young children after their parents were killed in a horrific automobile accident, which they survived, never to abandon one another. The pact didn't last long, as they are given different foster parents. The boy ends up in Japan as a young adult. He starts dealing drugs so he can afford the plane ticket for his sister to join him. He gets deeper into the drug selling. He entices women he picks up to become clients. One woman is reluctant to try the drugs he offers. "Isn't it dangerous?," she asks. "No, its a drug. Its a vitamin," he says.
Noe must have spent months editing this film of flashbacks and hallucinations and camera swooping about night-time Tokyo, delving deeply into its seedy side. Some may discount the film for some of unnecessary antics. The camera looks down upon an abortion and zooms in for a close-up of the tiny fetus, defiantly lingering on it. The camera peers out from a vagina as the head of a giant penis, filling the screen, penetrates it. The hovering camera also finds many many copulating couples. The screen is filled for minutes at a time with the fireworks that go off in the head of someone on heroin. This is a truly extraordinary film. As always, Noe does not hold back, and as always, goes way too far for most. The jury will have to decide if it is perversion or masterpiece.
This was one of two films in Competition to take place in Tokyo. The other was "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" by Spanish director Isabel Coixet. Sergi Lopez owns a wine shop in Tokyo. He is in despair over the suicide of his girl friend. He takes up with another woman who comes into his shop, who is a part-time assassin and has been hired to kill him. They go to love hotels. She doesn't have much to say, nor does the movie, though their chemistry and intrigue keep it interesting.
Two other Competition films I saw today were by veteran directors repeating themselves with films that had no narratives, just a hodgepodge of incidents, comical and dramatic. One of the recurring scenes in Tsai Ming-Liang's "Face" is of a director making a film in France. Another is of a woman taping up a window. Mathieu Amalric pleasures himself with a man in a forest. A deer butts heads with his mirrored reflection in a forest. A woman cleans out her refrigerator. What it all adds up to can only be guessed at. This film gets the honor of being the most walked out upon film of the festival.
Elia Suleiman in "The Time that Remains" once again comments on the difficulty of life in Palestine. He portrays it with a comic underpinning as he did in his last film"Divine Intervention." This seemed lightweight fare compared to "Ajami" and "Amreeka."
A still from "A Town Called Panic," a Belgian animated film, was featured on the festival program listing all the films playing. Usually its one of the smaller films in Competition. This Out of Competition offering may have been put on the cover in keeping with the festival's acknowledgement of animation becoming a vital force in cinema, what with an animated film opening the festival for the first time--"Up." This was a special presentation at the end of the festival. The film was adapted from a cult animated series of the same name. The three main characters are a horse, a cowboy and an Indian who live together and go by those names. Their zany and cleverly-depicted antics were amusing.
"Polytechnique" will not be the only French-Canadian film among my top ten for the festival. "I Killed My Mother," also in the Director's Fortnight, will be there. This is an extraordinary and most audacious film written and directed and starring 20-year old Xavier Dolan. Dolan plays Hubert, a high school junior. He truly, truly hates his mother, not enough to kill her, though possibly so. He writes a short story with the title of the movie--"I Killed My Mother." The two of them are repeatedly at each other's throats, shouting and yelling barrages of scornful, hateful remarks at each other. Hubert can put on the charm when he wants his way, but it doesn't last long. He thinks he has achieved a solution to appease their turmoil--getting his own apartment. She at first agrees, but then reneges, making him explode even further. This was a daring, original film with unrestrained brilliant performances, especially by Hubert.
And tomorrow I'll finish off the festival with "Inglourious Basterds" and "Antichrist" and a couple others. Tarantino's film plays at nine a.m. Last year I showed up at eight a.m. on repeat Sunday for "Che," though I needn't have. But for "Basterds" an hour early might not be early enough.