Peerless provocateur Gaspar Noé is throwing a party and you’re all invited. You might want to think it over.
A prelude to Climax shows videotaped interviews with dancers (playing on an old TV and surrounded by stacks of VHS: Suspiria, Possession, Querrelle, Salo, all good, goading stuff), who are auditioning will for a troupe that's scheduled to tour France and the US. And now the chit-chat is out of the way, let the madness begin.
Gaspar Noé's most admired film since Irreversible starts as it means to go on: writhing, gyrating, and seething its way toward the inner circle of hell. A hugely impressive and gymnastic piece of Tanztheater set to 1990s electronica – the film is set before mobile phones, for reasons that become apparent – the wild opening dance number is shot with fierce, unblinking intensity.
The bouncy cast and banging tunes – including by M/A/R/R/S, Daft Punk and a new track by that duo's Thomas Bangalter – make for an arresting spectacle, even as the evening descends into debauchery and, ultimately, anguish.
As if taking cues from Rollin' and Scratchin', Climax begins with an uncomplicated backbeat – somebody in this isolated hall has spiked the sangria in the punchbowl – and builds to a screeching fever pitch. A young boy named Tito, who has accompanied his mother – why? – is locked away in a utility room, while the adults turn on one another, engage in toxic gossip, bully, cajole, perform DIY abortions, cut themselves, commit acts of incest, and, in one instance, get set on fire. All the while, various dancers keep thrusting and krumping and wacking and voguing.
Shot in 15 days and featuring a cast of mostly unknown dancers – save for the terrific Sofia Boutella (The Mummy, Atomic Blonde) – Climax never loses pace or energy. Even the final all-red, upside-down moments – this is from the director of Enter the Void and Love – as the bad trip gives way to absolute despair, the camera swerves and pulses, as if possessed.
Appropriately – or perhaps inappropriately –bacchanalian and unquestionably the dance-horror-musical event of the year.