Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Enter The Void

Trudging away from the theater as the end credits rolled, I had to struggle to keep from collapsing, the cosmic weight of Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void is so great. Expansive is too narrow a word to describe the film's universe and cinematic language.
Oscar is a young American living in Tokyo, dealing drugs small time to raise money for his sister's plane ticket so she can join him in this far eastern city of lights. We open on a scene of them bickering (the language of siblings), shot from Oscar's POV; this take lasts for at least the first 20 minutes of the film, wherein we see the lights of Tokyo, drug-induced hallucinations, and Oscar's moment of death at the hands of the police. Then things get weird.
Though we are with Oscar for every second of the film, the real star is Paz de la Huerta as his sister, Linda; we see her brother's face maybe twice, and mostly when he's dead. De la Huerta delivers a towering, harrowing, and fragile performance that is daring on a number of levels. Noe is a director who can win an actress's trust completely; those who've seen Irreversible know what I'm talking about. De la Huerta does everything, bares all (physically and emotionally), and goes everywhere the film demands.
Noe takes universal paradigms - life flashing before your eyes at the moment of death, the afterlife, and reincarnation - and runs with them. What blew me away was how the film explores these anxieties so deeply yet so simply. After he is killed, Oscar's spirit or ghost floats around the city watching over his bereaved sister, all the while trying to make sense of this new and confusing plane of existence. Like the opening scene, it unfolds entirely from his strict POV.
Perhaps the greatest pleasures of Enter The Void for me as a filmmaker are the lighting and color; the photography marinates in green and purple neon, such a great relief from the insidious orange and teal plague that is afflicting more and more films these days. Though filmed almost entirely at night, the city of Tokyo is so bright it acts as one giant practical light, providing all the illumination we need for a picture about death and life and all the sticky, unpleasant details in between. Some may find this method of cinematography a bit graceless; characters' faces will disappear into darkness for chunks of time and so on, but if you're bothered by this then you're missing the point. 
I can safely say that Enter The Void is unlike anything you have seen; I don't have to know you. The film is so completely unique that I have utter confidence no person has seen anything like it, no person but Gaspar Noe.

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