Cannes 2015: Love Review - Why The 3D Sex Movie Is A Masterpiece

Gaspar Noé's expression of passion is a tour de force.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜…˜…˜… Cannes 2015 has been full of progressive films. Son Of Saul painted the Holocaust in a new, personal light. Carol went against the expectation of a repressed lesbian love story. Youth revealed Michael Caine still has some distance in him. But none are more impressive, more unexpected or more shocking than Love, Gaspar Noé's 3D romanctic epic. In fact, you've never seen anything like this before. Yes, this is the sex film; love-making scenes with uncanny levels of realism pervade throughout. Their explicit nature is going to turn a lot of people off, so it's worth clarifying now - they're artfully realised and completely justified within the story. Murphy, an American in Paris with a young family, hears that his ex-girlfriend, Electra, has been missing for the past couple of months, sending him spiralling into his memories of the relationship, which invariably feature a lot of hardcore sex. A threesome, a sex club, an affair, a one-night stand, a first time; it's all here and it's all totally effective, building a portrait of a man filled with inner turmoil and regret. At one point Murphy states that film should be made of "blood, semen and tears", a very Noé observation and perfect summation of the film. This year at Cannes we've already seen action and emotions (the former and latter case) realised as the key to a compelling, complete narrative (from Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out respectively). Now it's the turn of sex. Noé has stated in many interviews he intended to show the passion of lovemaking (and even has Murphy echo that sentiment) and he certainly pulls it off. The numerous sex scenes are shot with mostly static cameras, allowing the thrusting, intertwining actors to work unencumbered, selling their characters' interplay (in all meanings of the word). The film also does a great job of contrasting scenes of romantic passion and primal lust, selling an underlying heartache through constantly shifting lighting during an orgy. Although to dismiss Love simply as artful titillation is a gross misreading of the film; in what has become a running theme in the festival, Love is really about memories. Most of the film is playing out in Murphy's head, with his romantic feelings for Electra instinctively taking him to their pure sexual encounters before spiralling towards the emotional upset. Fragmented scenes are played out in full later on and the film quite literally blacks out between each recollection. Every single cut is punctuated by an extended black screen, highlighting the longer takes and allowing the film to show the impermanence of Murphy's memories; he completely skips over Electra's passion for poetry, but obsesses over his love of 2001 (Noé's favourite film) from the same conversation. This means that the film Love is most like is Inside Out, a bizarre but undeniable comparison that will be ripe for exploration at a later date. If you haven't noticed from the various self-referential asides, there's a lot of meta elements to the film, from the obvious - Murphy calls his son Gaspar, Electra went out with a gallery owner called Noé, posters repeat the pre-movie warning about explicit content - to the more obscure - Murphy wears the same t-shirt Noé wears while filming, one scene's a shoutout to Irreversible. At first Noé uses this to make his intent implicit - realise the sensuality of love (and the distinction between love and just sex is important) - but as time goes by he's stretching them to put himself on the screen, making an already intimate movie even more personal and challenging the audience to face their own preconceptions about sex and romance. These elements are going to divide audiences almost as much as the sex, particularly the overt ones, but Noé just doesn't seem to care. Near the mid-point a penis ejaculates directly at the screen. It's a surreal experience, especially in 3D, and marks the point where the director's jettisoning those too prudish to get on board; if you're enraptured it'll solidify you adoration of his vision; if you've been disgusted so far it'll probably tip you into walking out. Division is often taken as a mar on a film, but, as you'd expect, that's exactly what the director's aims are here. Through his straightforward approach to a taboo and embracing of uncomfortable themes, Noé's made a film you can't help but react to. And isn't that the whole point of art? It's a shame that mainstream audiences will never get to see it, and those who've gazed at its beauty here in Cannes will never experience it again. The explicit, unsimulated sex scenes make cuts inevitable for any sort of cinematic release, and while a trimmed version will probably carry some of the same weight, it's not going to have quite the same viscerality. Love is a masterwork destined to be lost in time, which is fitting for a film all about obsessing over the past. If Love was In Competition, it would be a dead cert for the Palme d'Or. An always exhilarating, inherently provoking, ultimately depressing movie, it's a celebration of love, life and cinematic art. Keep up with all of our Cannes 2015 coverage on the official page here.

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Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.