Netflix is streaming Gaspar Noé’s Love. Noé has long been brutal and shocking in a way that Von Trier is normally credited for, though Trier, despite my love of his Elements of Crime, is far too willing to be clever and a little gimmicky in his approaches, lavishing us with fairly light fare under heightened borrowed tropes. For all the groaning and cringing, he does not break ground. Noé, however, consistently twists my guts, and I have been a fan since seeing his I Stand Alone. His use of color, how he sets up shots, his unflinching juxtapositions and that taut aural focus? His entirely unsympathetic anti-heroes and what he makes grindingly overt? It is always harder to look away.
So. Love… is, above all, a four letter word in his hands, and not for the faint of heart.
It is also very red/green reliant. If you have a hard time with these tones, the looming chiaroscuro might be enough to keep you riveted, since the characters are awash in shadows of Jungian proportions.
“You put her there.”
“You know what? Take care of your past, and, and I take care of the future.”
“You come here… eat meat, make babies.” (As the meaning of life, that’s pretty killing. I laughed, anyway.)
Extra points for using Eddie Hazel’s heart-rending solo in a critical scene, then almost immediately, again, but with the same elements no longer neatly arranged, the same elements that were all so right, instead flattened and elaborated, each brought to the fore, and each somehow entirely off: Hazel’s strum and wail gone wrong, and that simple rhythm of the original snare and cymbal no longer working within a larger whole, as the storyline breaks away, too.
The turn for worse. The difference between drive and passion, or urge with feeling and urge without.
On the surface, Noé makes it look so bold or easy, even stupid (“Electra… has a Daddy complex.”), but on the surface isn’t it always?
And most importantly, at least for an American contending with a legacy of hypersexualized culture — our ongoing vogue of augmented insecure bodies and puerile impulses alongside enduring criminally repressive mores (plus double standards), and an unrelenting see/feel dichotomy: several of the hardcore scenes are remarkably understated: honest, sustained, and lovely. Some, but then: Noé is no simple provocateur. Even at his most obscene, he his also willing to introduce some of these themes — the double standard, unnecessary divisions. Without the silly abstract terms, and, clearly, outside of pretext. I love his work.