Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe, 2009)
For the first hour of its ridiculous two-and-a-half-hour running time, Enter the Void is my favorite piece of Noe since Carne (with the understanding that I have not yet seen I Stand Alone); Noe handles the non-linear aspect of the story very well, keeping it coherent while using what I have cone to understand is a very difficult convention. I’ve seen a few movies that have attempted, and failed, the non-linear thing in recent weeks (e.g. Wingard’s A Horrible Way to Die), so I appreciate it working here a great deal.
Then we get to the last hour and a half. I understand what Noe is trying to do, and for the most part I understand how he’s trying to do it. But still, there are certain points where it just plain doesn’t work.
Plot: a layabout-turned-drug-dealer, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown in his screen debut), is on his way to deliver some pills to a regular client, Victor (Bright Star‘s Olly Alexander), when he gets caught in a police raid at the Void nightclub in Tokyo, and is shot and killed. At the behest of a friend, he’s been reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to which he tries to introduce his sister Linda (A Walk to Remember‘s Paz de la Huerta) in the opening sequence, and the remainder of the movie explores Oscar’s spirit—soul, if you will—undertaking the afterlife journey as codified in said book. We see Oscar—the film is shot completely from his perspective, over the actor’s shoulder when he is in frame, or from his POV otherwise—watching the lives of his acquaintances in the present day combined with a number of traumatic memories that allow us to see how Oscar and Linda get from France to Tokyo.
It’s good stuff, and the potential of it is realized in the first 40% of the movie. After that, it gets bloated and unwieldy, with a great deal of repetition. I can understand that in the case of some of the more traumatic pieces (Oscar getting shot being an obvious one), but some of the repetition just seems senseless. Worse, at least from my perspective, is Noe’s obsession with what I call “blinkies”. The movie is chock full of strobe lights and other things that change color or brightness or what have you very rapidly. And I know this is a personal thing, and your mileage may (and probably will) vary, but I find that really, really annoying. There were a lot of portions of this movie where I had to close my eyes simply because I was so annoyed by the blinkies. Which leads to the movie’s third, and worst, major weakness: Noe just can’t stop himself from filming things simply for shock value. The entire last fifteen minutes of this movie, known as the “love hotel” sequence… well, you know that thirty-second shot towards the end of Requiem for a Dream that got it rated NC-17? Imagine that drawn out to endless, and ultimately boring, lengths, overlaid with stupid strobe lights, and you’ve got an idea of the contents of the love hotel sequence. How do you make this sort of thing (and let’s call it what it is, porn) boring? You can take lessons in it from watching the last major sequence in Enter the Void.
Starts off so well, and then finishes like a dog. **
The official trailer: only 1/60 of the film’s running time!