By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Cannes Review: Love

As Haddaway asks, “what is Love?” Love is Gaspar Noé’s latest attempt to wind cranks, as the internet surely saw this week in the not-safe-for-work movie posters showcasing his feature-length “art” porno. Love is a film where a main character—an aspiring filmmaker—says to another: “I just want to make a movie about love and sex and sensuality in a real way! Why haven’t I seen that before?”

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“I don’t even know what that means!”

(No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative!)

“No it’s not, it’s gross.” (Gets the people going!)

Brazenly, Noé, shit-disturber that he is, requests two hours of your time to witness his tedious art-sex romance. Real talk: it’s too easy to get worked up about the many reasons why Love is a waste of time, and it’s too easy to fall prey to the critical traps this film is laden with.

It’s a waste of time because, well, most importantly—does anyone really spend more than ten minutes staring at pornography? Okay, say you want some story in your smut—that’ll extend things, for sure. But what if the story is silly and the sex is …. boring? Or at least repetitive? If a marathon of dull porn centered a drug-addled love triangle sounds mind-numbing, that’s because it is.

Realistically, that’s all this is. Porn. That’s not a stigma, but with a narrative this clichéd (and somehow safe—a threesome is one character’s wildest fantasy), this film is far past the point of “romantic drama.” So replace your cheesy porno script with a bit of art-house sensationalism (impassioned speeches about sex and death and “love is the meaning of life!”) and equally bad dialogue, and you’ve got a fun way to spice up the Croisette. In 3D, naturally.

This is a movie where we watch someone ejaculate straight at the camera—I’m talking Mr. DeMille levels of close-up—and it’s just one-hundred percent juvenile. Because you know Noé is laughing at the squeamish audience reactions. He’s having his way with us, making the viewing experience all the more ridiculous. This may sound like something you’d say “oh, I gotta see this” to, but this scene comes after an hour of the sexual equivalent of paint drying.

Further immaturity is found in Noé’s self-insertion into the story. One character has a son named Gaspar; there’s another man named Noé. And on, and on, and on. That sort of playfulness is reminiscent of Leos Carax and Holy Motors—maybe it’s just French to be so cheeky?—but the autobiographical representation of Noé’s tendencies make this film far more childish than I think he intended. In attempting to create a new genre of philosophical pornography, he made something inane and monotonous and florid.

“I want to get drunk before Love,” I overheard a woman say outside Cannes’ Debussy Theatre on the eve of the film’s flagrant midnight debut. (A relevant Beyoncé song got stuck in my head immediately after.) Good advice: get drunk beforehand. It’ll help. See it with friends. Laugh all the way through. Giggle like school girls while wearing a goofy pair of 3D glasses. If not, you’ll sit there in silence. (And maybe frustration.)

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“When Bay keeps these absurd plot-gears spinning, he’s displaying his skill as a slick, professional entertainer. But then there are the images of motion—I hesitate to say, of things in motion, because it’s not clear how many things there are in the movie, instead of mere digital simulations of things. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there’s a car chase through London, seen from the level of tires, that could have gone on for an hour, um, tirelessly. What matters is that the defenestrated Cade saves himself by leaping from drone to drone in midair like a frog skipping among lotus pads; that he and Vivian slide along the colossal, polished expanses of sharply tilting age-old fields of metal like luge Olympians. What matters is that, when this heroic duo find themselves thrust out into the void of inner space from a collapsing planet, it has a terrifyingly vast emptiness that Bay doesn’t dare hold for more than an instant lest he become the nightmare-master. What matters is that the enormous thing hurtling toward Earth is composed in a fanatical detail that would repay slow-motion viewing with near-geological patience. Bay has an authentic sense of the gigantic; beside the playful enormity of his Transformerized universe, the ostensibly heroic dimensions of Ridley Scott’s and Christopher Nolan’s massive visions seem like petulant vanities.”
~ Michael Bay Gives Richard Brody A Tingle

How do you see film evolving in this age of Netflix?

I thought the swing would be quicker and more violent. There have been two landmark moments in the history of French film. First in 1946, with the creation of the CNC under the aegis of Malraux. He saved French cinema by establishing the advance on receipts and support fund mechanisms. We’re all children of this political invention. Americans think that the State gives money to French films, but they’re wrong. Through this system, films fund themselves!

The other great turning point came by the hand of Jack Lang in the 1980s, after the creation of Canal+. While television was getting ready to become the nemesis of film, he created the decoder, and a specific broadcasting space between film and television, using new investments for film. That once again saved French film.

These political decisions are important. We’re once again facing big change. If our political masters don’t take control of the situation and new stakeholders like Netflix, Google and Amazon, we’re headed for disaster. We need to create obligations for Internet service providers. They can’t always be against film. They used to allow piracy, but now that they’ve become producers themselves, they’re starting to see things in a different light. This is a moment of transition, a strong political act needs to be put forward. And it can’t just be at national level, it has to happen at European level.

Filmmaker Cédric Klapisch