Love: powerful atmospherics; far too much orgy-based sex in 3D | Cannes Review

Whereas 50 Shades of Grey didn’t offer much you could properly call sex, arch provocateur Gaspar Noé’s latest is very much the real banana

Three’s company: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin in Love

Film Title: Love

Director: Gaspar Noé

Starring: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin, Juan Saavedra, Aron Pages, Vincent Maraval

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 135 min

Fri, May 22, 2015, 12:04

   

For the second time this year, critics are risking ridicule for declaring a supposedly sexually explicit film “boring”. You know how it goes. Oh, you would say that, wouldn’t you?

Whereas 50 Shades of Grey didn’t offer much you could properly call sex, the latest from arch provocateur Gaspar Noé is very much the real banana. Telling the tale of a pretentious, untrustworthy young American adrift in a Paris that Gene Kelly would not recognise, the picture has its actors do everything you are required to do in threesomes, orgy-based sex and the classy super-creamy variety of vanilla.

Mr Noé has – by suggesting what effect he hopes the film will have on both male and female privates – more or less acknowledged that he doesn’t mind Love being seen as (among other things) pornography. If that is what you seek then a highly edited version of the picture may do you very nicely.

The cast is implausibly good-looking and the sex scenes are unrealistically graceful. It is, to my knowledge, the first 3-D film that causes audiences to duck for fear of being dampened by . . . Well, if you don’t know where this sentence is going then you probably don’t want to know.

Let us now be fair. For all his pretentiousness and oddness, Noé remains one of the most fascinating voices in contemporary cinema. In films such as Irreversible and Enter the Void, the Argentinean-born Frenchman showed fresh ways of misshaping cinematic reality through sickening camera angles and throbbing sound.

In Love, a more low-key project than either of those two admired films, cinematographer Benoît Debie has strapped down his camera, tightened the focus and allowed startling jumps between different perspectives. When the camera does move it follows its subject down long paths and through lengthy corridors. It’s an effective technique that draws the viewer into the role of dispassionate voyeur.

Though some of the music choices are a tad obvious (the Goldberg Variations for a sensitive coupling? Really? Again?), the sound design remains spooky, enveloping and original.

All this is welcome. Unfortunately the characters in Love are enormously tedious and their adventures are deadeningly (yes) boring. We begin with Murphy (so named to allow a gag about Murphy’s Law), now living with a young partner Omi and their child, waking up to moan incessantly about everything in his apparently lovely world.

The phone rings and he learns that Electra (so named because the director is Gaspar Noé), his former love, is not answering calls and may have killed herself. We then spend two hours and 20 minutes piecing together the mechanics – well oiled by organic lubricants – of the relationship between Murphy, Omi and Electra.

The running time matters. There are the makings here of a decent 90-minute doodle, to be knocked off before Noé embarks on his next full-scale project. It is soaked in original style. The atmospherics are powerful. Played out at epic length, however, Murphy’s narcissistic whitterings eventually become impossible to bear. The pretensions show through, the sex scenes become plain exhausting and the three inexperienced actors wear out their very modest welcome.

In several shots, humble, humble Gaspar allows us to see a poster for DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. Love is nowhere near so offensive. (Indeed, you sensed pundits straining painfully and unsuccessfully to feign outrage in the aftermath of the midnight screening here at Cannes.) It is certainly not so innovative. But it does feel nearly as long.

Love is howing out of competition at Cannes 2015. For the latest Cannes coverage, click here