Sunday, February 20, 2011

Enter The Void

Looking at my utter lack of connection from Enter The Void I almost can’t help but be impressed by just how utterly and completely the film failed to reach me in any way. I stand off to the side, hand poised thoughtfully on my chin, cock my head to one side and realize “Gee I really got nothing from that at all. Absolutely nothing.” Enter The Void fails as an intellectual experience, an artistic one, a spiritual one, hell it even fails as a sensual one. It ultimately fails at the modest charge of being a good head movie. It is a rare movie where one cannot even appreciate its ambition.

The film follows a lowlife drug dealer whose shot to death in a Tokyo Bathroom flashes back through his life and then follows the aftermath of his death. All the while lingering on the deeply creepy semi incestuous bond he has with his sister. This I was more or less prepared for, as I was prepared and excited for Noe’s ambitious idea of portraying death in the first person and his reputation as an assaultive provocateur. All fine qualities in and of themselves.

What I was unprepared for is just how punishingly repetitive and unimaginative Noe’s imagery would be. The movie runs two hours and forty minutes and you will feel every blessed one of them. Over that long course you’ll get to see each of Noe’s dull imagery several times over. I understand that Noe is attempting to portray the mind in shutdown mode, running over the same repetitive sights, sounds and concepts. If this was the case could he at least choose more interesting and original sight’s sounds and concepts then Bright flashing lights, neon, and car crashes?

Oh I forgot there is extensive imagery of an aborted fetus. Which I’m beginning to think might supplant prayer as the last refuge of a scoundrel. Look can we all agree, that images of aborted fetus should strictly be the province of bad heavy metal bands, radical pro lifers, performance artists, and other sad people desperately seeking attention? (Which come to think of it, fits as a description of Noe so gee I guess carry on.)

So yeah, my Irish is up a little more then it usually is on this blog. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s wasted potential. The opportunity for pure artistic expression comes along so seldom that it’s a shame to watch it squandered. I can only imagine what someone like Herzog or Jodorowsky would have done with this concept and budget.

Enter The Void is loud, garish, ugly and staggeringly empty. If your idea of visionary filmmaking is someone flashing brightly colored lights at you, then count yourself in for a treat; you are about to experience some visionary filmmaking. The rest of us will get a repetitive shuffling of unpleasant individuals doing unpleasant things, intercut with lots of neon and occasionally a towering penis shoved in our faces (Thank God it wasn’t shot in 3D). I don’t care how amazing of a technical experience this is. Not only does the emperor have no clothes. He’s teabagging your wife.


Drew McIntosh said...

There is no in between with this movie, it seems. Either you get sucked into the nightmarish aesthetics and sweeping camerawork and go along for the ride, or one is completely left in the cold, in which case it understandably becomes and unendurable experience in tedium.

I fall into the former category, and while many of the fundamental issues I have with Noe were still present here (the juvenile nihilism, the penchant for heavy-handedness etc.), for me the formal and aesthetic qualities for the first time overwhelmed everything else, and I was fully sucked in to the Experience. I think seeing it on the big screen (which I did twice) helps a lot on that front. I disagree that the imagery was dull, and I think the repetition goes a long way towards establishing the hypnotic rhythm of the movie, but of course that's all purely subjective.

As far as the fetus goes, yeah obviously it's unpleasant and gratuitous, but at least in falls in line with Noe's cinematic worldview of "If you're going to show something, show it", which in his films always extends to violence, sex, and any darker elements of life. And yeah, we could probably argue over how juvenile an approach that is, but to me there's at least a tinge of honesty in his consistency with it that can make these scenes feel maybe a little less gratuitous than they should.

Neil Fulwood said...

Everyone in the streets and in the intellectual press said, "Oh how fine are the emperor's new clothes. And isn't all the aborted fetus imagery provocative."

Nobody would confess that Emperor Gaspar was not in fact wearing anything, for that would profess him unable to read a movie blog or write a review.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

"Kid, you're right," exclaimed Bryce, pushing his way through the crowd. "And I do believe he's teabagging someone's missus."

"What's teabagging?" the little child asked.

But Bryce, whistling an innocent tune, had started beating a hasty retreat.

(Joking apart, I read a stellar review of this on The Film Connoisseur recently. I've now just read a completely antithetical review. I really need to see this as soon as possible.)

Kevin Foster said...

Hi. My name is Cevin. I was reading your page and found it very interesting. I was hoping that you could take a look at my page and let me know what you think. Feel free to leave feedback. Thanks!

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Drew: In all fairness I really can see how this is a film harmed by not having a midnight film experience anymore (though one er... requirement of said experience was definitely fulfilled when I watched it).

I can see how seeing this movie on the big screen, or more importantly seeing it with a big group of people primed for an experience could make a big difference. Alas I did not and thus can only review the experience I have.

I still think (with exception to the final sperm ova union which looked like something Terrence Malick would shoot if he went nutso) that the imagery was underwhelming, and while I understand why it was so repetitive I can't help but feel the film would be stronger with at least forty minutes off of it (Outlaw Vern put it well when he noted "I think three graphic fucking scenes in the Love Hotel Climax would have gotten the point across as well as nine")

As for the fetus question I think the key word there is gratuitous. Hell it's not like I'm against the portrayal of Dead Fetus's period. They've been used for some pretty decent South Park punch lines. But to me there's no why here.

I can except why Noe had to shoot a brutal Murder and then Rape scene in Irreversible to make the rest of the movie work. But why did he show a dead fetus in Enter The Void? What artistic or narrative point did he make?

That character's abortion is never mentioned again in the (scant) plot and it has no bearing on the rest of the film. It's like Noe was clocking his film and said "If I don't have something shocking and degraded here people are going to forget they're watching a Gasper Noe Film!"

@ Neil: That made my day. We should Co-Author a book of Blogger Fairy Tales. Can't wait to read what you have to say.

@ Cevin: Well Cevin my first bit of feedback would be to not make your first impression with something that looks suspiciously like Spam.

Drew McIntosh said...

Oh, I wasn't defending the fetus scene by any means, it's definitely gratuitous, we agree on that for sure. All I was getting at was that, well, it's a Gaspar Noe film, and that in and of itself makes it a little less gratuitous, if that makes sense. To a degree, his entire approach to cinema is informed by a gratuitousness. I just think at this point with Noe there are more interesting criticisms to be discussed, because lord knows there are plenty of them.

Anonymous said...

This was just released on NetFlix instant. Checking it out ASAP.

Bryce Wilson said...

Be very interested in what you think POT.

le0pard13 said...

Finely written piece, Bryce. I have to say reading something that has your Irish up is inspirational. This sounds like another Gaspar Noé film I can avoid (IRREVERSIBLE would be the other... Monica Bellucci or not), but that's just me. Thanks for this.

Bryce Wilson said...

lol yeah it's rare my Irish gets up. Thanks to the blog's mission statement. Maybe I should create a tag for it.

Neil Fulwood said...

A co-authored book of fairy tales. Would that make us the Bloggers Grimm?

Bryce Wilson said...

Ouch and I was worried about my puns in my Eyes Wide Shut review.

Daniel Silberberg said...

I can't find your Eyes Wide Shut review. :(

I came away with quite the opposite opinion about Enter the Void. To me, the slowness made it feel more like a real experience, and the repetition was poetic and creatively handled. The visuals, while composed of familiar ingredients, for me created the perfect tone. The flashing colored lights are appealing not for their uniqueness, but for the overarching atmosphere they produce. Every scene made sense to me, giving the impression of a universe that follows some inscrutable design.

The abortion scene itself made me cringe more than the fetus. It was certainly unpleasant, but I don't grant that it was gratuitous. In a film about life, death, sex, rebirth, and unforeseen consequences, it seemed to fit completely with the themes.

I suppose that, as you said with Kurosawa's Dreams, Your Mileage May Vary.

Bryce Wilson said...

Well like I said this is less a movie then a Rorsarch test, if you were able to take that- Godbless.

Oh and here's the Eyes Wide Shut review: