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Enter The Void

Enter The Void, Gaspar Noe’s newie, is as visually arresting as it gets, and contrary to the sniffy censures proffered by certain ‘of the old school’ film critics, is both viscerally and cerebrally powerful, a free-floating, adrenaline-intoxicated, neon-blur nightmare that feels like a quantum leap, an evolutionary advance in cinema. Hyperbole alert, perhaps, but it’s that fresh-feeling.

Nathaniel Brown plays Oscar, a US twentysomething relocated to Tokyo, where he scores petty drug deals. He lives with erotic dancer sister Paz De La Huerta: as we join the film, it’s night, Tokyo has come to bristling life and sis heads off to work whilst Brown stays behind and gets high. We are then privy to a spectacular sequence representing said trip. Jacked up nerve endings? Chemicals microscopically rendered? Impressionistic jazzy tomfoolery? It looks great, whatever’s going on. Shortly thereafter we are joined by buddy Alex (Cyril Roy) and we (first person perspective throughout: we see Oscar’s face in precisely one shot – a ruined glance into a bathroom mirror. All the flashbacks are similar, with a spectre-ish rear silhouette projection the only appearance of our vicarious, doomed protagonist) head out into the humming hive of silent-blare illuminated streets and sensory overload that is Tokyo by night.

We clank our descent down spiralling iron stairs and stroll past a prowling police car before arriving at ‘The Void’, a fairly down-at-heel nightspot, where Oscar meets his demise; chased into a toilet, he scrabbles around on a murky, piss-stained floor in a futile attempt at divesting himself of assorted pills and is, within seconds, shot in the chest. We see the blood running through glistening fingers and a foetal, ignominious end on a cubicle floor. At which point we assume the form of the dead man’s ghost as cops pick up the scattered evidence and we roam over Tokyo in a restless, floating whirl, breaching all physical barriers and making restless good on an old promise to ‘never leave’ his sister (this, gamely if questionably, includes entering the body of the night club owner that’s penetrating De La Huerta). The matter of incestuous intimations crops up throughout, as we not only careen through the city, sweeping arcs over vast swathes of inner-city Tokyo in glancing swoops: we head into the past and the motivational occurences that set all the major players on their respective grim paths.

Tokyo itself has hardly been better captured, and is here far from the cozy giant amusement arcade of Lost In Translation: here it’s an unforgiving, deeply inhuman, blankly enticing stage for random devastations to play themselves out on.

Noe’s direction is feverish but controlled, a gliding moth camera magnetised by strobes and pulsing surges of light that divine a fleeting anchor for this incessant, sweeping voyage in and out of deeply troubled lives.

Enter The Void, finally, is a bleakly luminous, moving, invigorating, restless swirl amidst an alien sea of neon and lost souls and a genuine leap into the cinematic future. As such, the response to this in some quarters is all the more mystifying. Gaspar Noe has made something that brilliantly captures the writhing spiritual rage of mortal dread. It’s a trip you have to take.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Mary Gilbert
    May 30, 2011 at 10:12 am

    “The writhing spiritual rage of mortal dread” sounds a bit exhausting to me so I might make my excuses. I know how much you value the sheer visual spectacle of great cinema so I’ll be interested to hear your take on The Tree of Life which I saw last night.

  2. June 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    It is pretty wringing stuff, Mary, but it’s a glorious piece of work for my money. The Tree Of Life you say? Oh boy. I can’t wait. How good was it, then?

    • Mary Gilbert
      June 1, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      I’ll wait to hear what you think first……

  3. June 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Well, there’s no release date in the UK due to a legal wrangle so I will have to hang on until the misery is put to bed…

  4. June 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    This wasn’t particularly on my radar to watch, due to some other reviews I’d seen. You make a good case for it though.

    Great choice of image, but then you do have a knack for those.

    “Tokyo itself has hardly been better captured”. I love Toyko. That line alone puts this right back on to my radar.

  5. June 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I found it a staggering audio/visual experience, in a very different vein to Avatar, though…and I did find it very emotive, cleverly so, in ways I still find odd and impressively elusive. It’s overwhelming in many ways; it’s far from perfect, of course. But the way it’s shot, lit, edited, scored, all make up for any lack. It’s an important piece of work for me.

    It’s a great photo of Paz De La Huerta – these things just suggest themselves, don’t they? Though it’s fair to say that the promotional photos for the film hardly do it any favours. Tokyo, here, very much has the feel of a holiday town at 3am when you’ve forgotten where your hotel is, if that makes sense: alien but chemically alluring, a kind of deathly mesmeric quality. The walk from the apartment down the wrought-iron steps and into ‘The Void’ has all the anticipatory excitement of a night out in a new town, to me at least. As mentioned, it has the feel of the first walk you ever took through the fields of a festival. Excitement, foreboding, possibility, flux, chaos, enticement etc.

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