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?”

Love-Gaspar-Noe-tente-le-grand-film-sentimental-porno_portrait_w532

“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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“I had this friend who was my roommate for a while. She seemed really normal in every way except that she wouldn’t buy shampoo. She would only use my shampoo. And after a year it’s like, “When are you going to buy your own shampoo?” It was her way of digging in her heels. It was a certain sense of entitlement, or a certain anger. It was so interesting to me why she wouldn’t buy her own fucking shampoo. It was like,“I’m gonna use yours.” It was coming from a place of “You have more money than me, I just know it”—whether I did or I didn’t. Or maybe she felt, “You have a better life than me,” or “You have a better room than me in the apartment.” It was hostile. And she was a really close friend! There was never any other shampoo and I knew she was washing her hair. And clearly I have a thing about shampoo, as we see in ‘Friends with Money.’ I had some nice shampoo. So I found that psychologically so interesting how a person can function normally in every way and yet have this aberrance—it’s like a skip in the record. It was a sense of entitlement, I think. I put that in Olivia’s character, too, with her stealing someone’s face cream.”
Nicole Holofcener

“When books become a thing, they can no longer be fine.

“Literary people get mad at Knausgård the same way they get mad at Jonathan Franzen, a writer who, if I’m being honest, might be fine. I’m rarely honest about Jonathan Franzen. He’s an extremely annoying manI have only read bits and pieces of his novels, and while I’ve stopped reading many novels even though they were pretty good or great, I have always stopped reading Jonathan Franzen’s novels because I thought they were aggressively boring and dumb and smug. But why do I think this? I didn’t read him when he was a new interesting writer who wrote a couple of weird books and then hit it big with ‘The Corrections,’ a moment in which I might have picked him up with curiosity and read with an open mind; I only noticed him once, after David Foster Wallace had died, he became the heir apparent for the Great American Novelist position, once he had had that thing with Oprah and started giving interviews in which he said all manner of dumb shit; I only noticed him well after I had been told he was An Important Writer.

“So I can’t and shouldn’t pretend that I am unmoved by the lazily-satisfied gentle arrogance he projects or when he is given license to project it by the has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy development of him being constantly crowned and re-crowned as Is He The Great American Writer. What I really object to is this, and if there’s anything to his writing beyond it, I can’t see it and can’t be bothered. Others read him and tell me he’s actually a good writer—people whose critical instincts I have learned to respect—so I feel sure that he’s probably a perfectly fine, that his books are fine, and that probably even his stupid goddamned bird essays are probably also fine.

“But it’s too late. He has become a thing; he can’t be fine.”
~ Aaron Bady