By Leslie Byron Pitt @
It’s often said that you don’t watch porn for its plot. The same can certainly be said for Gaspar Noe’s indulgent Love. For all it’s on screen ejaculation and 3D Penises thrusting out at the audience, Noe cannot hide that this is a tediously overlong piece with an under baked plot.
While Love is certainly a more sensitive and personal film in comparison to previous features (I Stand Alone (1998), Irréversible (2002), Enter the Void (2009)), Noe’s near embarrassing indulgent desire to remind the viewer that Love is very much his creation becomes more than a distraction. In fact it begins to dismantle the film as a whole.
Not that Love really has too much to say. Noe’s film follows an obnoxious film student named Murphy, whose New Year’s Day is disrupted with word that his ex-girlfriend; Electra has gone missing. Murphy then begins to worry, reminisce and fret about Electra and not only the love that they shared, but the explicit desires that had involved sex and drugs.
Much of the aesthetic is admirable. While the flickering strobe-like edits are a frustration, the framing of form by Noe is often beautifully crafted. The film’s first image, an explicit shot of heavy petting and love making is almost seductively constructed in its angles. Imagery like this can be dismissed as mere pornography, but it’s clear from the positioning of the camera Noe is attempting and (sometimes) achieving something more. At the films best, the binding and meshing of bodies is almost hypnotic in their compositions. The framing of Murphy as well, ensnaring him within door frames to metaphorically encase him with his thoughts is also smartly placed.
Despite this, one must ask and consider what Noe really wants a viewer to gain from the film’s graphic nature. Anyone with a decent broadband connection could easily be inundated with images from the likes of The Art of Blowjob or Dane Jones to see aesthetically pleasurable erotic images, which can also titillate (if they are into that sort of that thing). As aforementioned, such pornography/erotica (delete as appropriate) may have particular demands in consideration of framing. However, such videos are far more honest with their intentions.
It’s difficult to imagine a causal film viewer watching Love, so when posters of Salo, Taxi Driver, M and Birth of a Nation are observed on the walls of the protagonist, it’s clear that Noe is shouting out towards the cinephiles and film buffs of the world, who know who he is. Something that makes the sex in the film feel disingenuous. Is it shocking? Not particularly. Since the turn of the millennium films such as Intimacy (2001), 9 Songs (2004) and The Brown Bunny (2003) have detailed unsimulated sexual acts explicitly. Meanwhile Lars Von Trier, who also pushed sexual barriers with The Idiots (1998), recently created his own self-gratifying and overlong sexually orientated odyssey in Nymphomaniac. Like much of Von Trier’s work, it’s a film with its own set of flaws and frustrations, yet Von Trier’s attempt to contrast sexual desire with depression within an analysation over the course of a lifetime, provides far more stimulation than the half-baked romance we see here.
Love never gets to grips with why Murphy and Electra’s connection is so strong. Their romance is more languid than intense. Their chemistry only hints at poignancy sporadically. At one point Murphy claimed he wishes to create the first film which depicts sentimental sexuality correctly. Not only is the statement ludicrously on the nose, but it’s been implemented better in films such as Joe Swanberg’s Kissing on the Mouth (2005). Love has more in common with and feels more like many films of the mumblecore movement. Noe is far more interested in bring the attention to himself. Here we get a baby named Gaspar, an ex-lover name Noe. Murphy’s appearance is quite similar to Noe. The director’s much acknowledged love for Kubrick also crops up with conversations of 2001 and a narrative which screams for comparisons to Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Flashing subtitles depicting Murphy’s Law strobe on the screen while the titular Murphy, shoe gazes around his apartment. It becomes apparent of how much of a gimmick the sexual aspect feels as we’re left with characters who wallow in self-misery or screech at each other in arguments that build to nothing.
Come for the sex? Why? It means you may have to stay for the painfully dull heartache. It’s admirable to see a director look for way to illustrate sensuality for an audience, but not in a film that engages the approach with such a clear smugness. Noe is far more interesting when he’s assaulting the audience.
Love is released onto DVD January 11th 2016.