Director Gaspar Noé Special

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Argentine Gaspar Noé might not be the cinema world’s most prolific provocateur, but he’s certainly one of the most vigorous. After a long stint helming short films, he burst onto the scene with 1998’s caustic I Stand Alone, which chronicles the life and times of a troubled butcher / ex-con in early 1980s France. 2002 saw the release of Irreversible, one of the decade’s most polarizing and controversial films, a rape-revenge tale told, naturally, in reverse. Noé has finally returned with Enter the Void, an ambitious, 240-minute first-person feature that transcends all boundaries of time, space, and good taste. Rick, Justine and Simon braved all three of Noé’s flicks this week so you don’t have to.

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29 Comments
  1. Moeez says

    Gaspar Noe would do well by making a First-Person Videogame, he would be great at the level design, scripting like in a HALF LIFE game.

  2. THE BLACK MAN IS GOD says

    Can someone give me the information on the first french film in 1998 that was mentioned.

    1. Ricky D says

      The first film is called I Stand Alone by Gaspar Noe

      1. Justine says

        Or yea, that one that we had a lengthy discussion about…. that makes a lot of sense too…

      2. THE BLACK MAN IS GOD says

        Thanks but no thanks, I was talking about the the french film the female counterpart on your show stated that came out in 1998. It’s one of the films that pushed boundaries that year. (not by Gaspar Noe)

    2. Justine says

      I am assuming you are referring to Sombre?

      It’s a 1998 french serial killer/horror film made by Phillipe Grandieux. The film is shot almost entirely from his perspective, and the filmmaker uses day for night (la nuit americaine) even in day shots. The film famously begins with a room filled with screaming/terrified children who seem to be in a theatre. The entirely film plays with audience perceptions, and subverts most genre expectations. It is extremely eerie and disturbing, though I can’t remember any extreme violence persay it’s not exactly for the faint of heart.

      1. THE BLACK MAN IS GOD says

        Thank you very much Justine.

  3. Bob Hope says

    @JeanRZEJ

    Are you trying to convince the hosts of Sound On Sight that Enter The Void is a good movie or yourself? Give it up already.

  4. Ricky D says

    @ JeanRZEJ

    my comment was directed to everyone in general, not just you. I just noticed that 99 percent of the feedback I received was people simply calling Enter The Void awesome but can’t tell me why they think it is great. It is sort of frustrating.

    Also somewhere floating around in our website is a positive review of the film from last year’s screening at the BFI Film Fest.

    The problem with reviewing a film like Enter The Void is that we are pretty much tired of having people attack us, insult us etc just because we don’t like it. So by the time we get on the show and are ready to review it, we are so annoyed we just can’t find any energy to say something positive.

    at the end of the day, it is just another movie.

    On a final note, we would be happy to accept your written views on the film and publish it.

    1. JeanRZEJ says

      Yeah, I can understand how a constant barrage of insults from small minded wastes of life could become troubling, but you’ve just got to fight through it and rise above… rise above, hmm, yes. Without dying, though. Stay alive.

      I think you can learn a lot from these people, though, like the pointlessness of negative criticism when it comes to appreciating another’s work. That’s what I take away from it, anyway.

      I do think it is a grave mistake to dismiss every film that you don’t immediately like as ‘just another movie’. This film is pretty wildly divergent from a lot of things – typical narrative structure, typical cinematographic approach (few films today exist without ‘reaction shots’ – this film doesn’t even allow for the possibility of one), political correctness, family-centered moral structure… Fantasia is not ‘just another Disney movie’. There must be some critical minds out there who have helped to illuminate certain aspects of great films for you in the past, and I would encourage you to look to those respected minds for this film. I think it’s worth the effort. Great films are not great because they reward you on the first glance, they are great because they contain far more than you could glean on a first glance, and their rewards multiply upon further examination. Again, you may not end up feeling that this is a great film, and there’s nothing wrong with that (and nothing ‘great’ in your opinion), but this is not Hot Tub Time Machine. It is at the very least has the potential to be viewed as a singular work of great artistic depth – and what depths are more rewarding? And what do you engage with art for, anyway? For me, it is not just to pleasurably pass the seconds between this film and the next in a pleasurable fashion. That’s Brave New World status, a waste of life. To appreciate, understand, contextualize, if only in some abstract fashion, life, human companionship, love, sex, death… this film shies away from none of it. And it’s certainly filled with shamefully underappreciated aesthetic bliss. Surely you could do a show focusing purely on the work of the film’s visual artists, no? To dismiss their work just because you don’t like Noé’s approach is, I think, a shame. They put the hundreds/thousands of artists working on Avatar to shame, I think.

    2. JeanRZEJ says

      This is the best appreciative piece on the film I have read, and its writer is as equally baffled by the shallow dismissals as you are by the shallow approvals.

      http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/motion-captured/posts/the-m-c-review-enter-the-void-spills-over-with-visual-wonder-and-big-ideas

      Maybe that will give you the other perspective you’ve been seeking.

  5. Melanie says

    Enter The Void = simplistic and monotonous

  6. JeanRZEJ says

    I just got back from Enter the Void and, while I couldn’t make it through your discussion of the film due to the extreme amounts of negativity, I thought the film was phenomenal on many different levels and truly life affirming. It’s a shame that none of you felt the same, or at least none of you were able to begin talking about the amazing things in the film before my critical ear was drowned in a deluge of negativity. Simply amazing.

    1. Ricky D says

      To be fair, we love it when people share their views on a movie especially when they disagree. It is what film discussion and film criticism is all about. expressing and exchanging opinions. The only reason we were negative is because none of us could find anything positive to say, because we hated it that much.

      However it would be great if for once, someone who loved the movie Enter The Void, could actually give us some constructive and well thought out reasons as to why they like it other than simply stating it is amazing or awesome. Why is it amazing and awesome? Please let me know why because I am truly interested to know how other feel.

      The internet is awash with many self-professed film nerds flying the flag high and proclaiming Enter The Void a film to be celebrated on the level of 2001 A Space Odyssey. In doing so, rarely will they adopt a more academic approach to the review, breaking it down piece by piece and examining it. Rather, the easier route is to merely proclaim it great, assault its detractors, and end every paragraph with “but I thought this facet was excellent.”

      Even with Irreversible, despite the fact as a gay man, I thought it was extremely homophobic, I was still able to break away and discuss what I like about the film.

      I don’t understand why people read reviews or listen to film podcasts if they are unable to accept other people’s opinions even if it is completely opposite to what they think.

      Simply listen, send us your views and we will also listen to what you have to say… like this we can all learn something and agree to disagree.

      So with that being said can you tell us why it is amazing and life changing?

      1. JeanRZEJ says

        I’m willing to accept others’ opinions, I just find negative criticism to be a waste of time. School of André Bazin et al. I find criticism intersting only as a means of discovering new things to appreciate about a film. As such, when I hear the opposite, I see nothing of merit. If you want to read a positive review of the film detailing its merits, use the internet. It was not my intention to write one in the previous post, and I have not even begun to unspool the meritorious aspects of the film into coherent words. If your post was supposed to be some sort of formal request for a detailed writeup I would be happy to provide you with one when I get around to it, probably after another viewing, if you tell me where to contact you. If it was just a general despairing cry for something substantial to read, again, use the internet. The subject of this comments section is, at least it seems to me, the content of this podcast. And, for the record, I never said it was life changing, and I don’t even know what that would entail, but I did think it was life affirming, in that it ends with a birth and is essentially a lamentation of a life wasted which shifts, in a scene of a life being wasted, into what seems to me to be a celebration of mutual affection, love, and life, completely divorced from political correctness and any sort of rigid morality and being delivered through an engrossing exhibition for the senses. My eyes told me that. If you want to hear more of what my fingers have to say, all of which will be positive, art-affirming words, then, again, tell me where I can best reach you, and when I collect my thoughts I’ll get them to you. It seems to me that you took umbrage with my post, but it was not meant as an insult, although it is certainly a result of what appears to me to be a rigid divide in what we feel the ends of criticism should be. This, too, is not personal, as my view has shifted over time, and I think there is certainly hope that your opinion of the film will shift. Maybe not, but then…

  7. Ricky says

    I wish we could do another Gasper Noe show but sadly we will have to wait a few years before he releases another film.

  8. Peter Davies says

    There’s male nudity in one of the first scenes with the sister as a stripper, in the back room with her dodgy boss in the overhead shot. No CGI involved in that.

  9. JeanRZEJ says

    I found it somewhat baffling that one of the commentators insisted upon an achronological film needing to be interesting chronologically. It seems like saying that a story that cuts between multiple narrative storylines, be it a novel or film, must be as interesting if you were to read each part independent of the others. Apparently James Joyce does not know what he is doing. Structural fragmentation is an extremely common technique, and this reverse chronology technique is not unique to Nolan and Noé but is also utilized, around the same time as Nolan, in film by the novelist turned filmmaker Lee Chang-Dog. If you want to term it a ‘gimmick’ that’s fine – but I don’t think ‘utilizing structure in a clever and interesting way’ is a pejorative. Typically a ‘gimmick’ is more of a trick as opposed to a cohesive narrative structure that pervades the entire film and reinforces its themes, or at least in the common pejorative usage. Regardless, I think it’s abundantly clear that the film is, as alluded to by another commentator on the show, a deconstruction of an exploitation film. It takes the typical ‘payoff’ and transforms it into a brutal scene of disturbing and disgusting violence with an anonymous victim; it takes the ‘provocation’ and strips it of its narrative force, simply becoming a pointless act of crude violence; it takes an idyllic beginning and both transforms it into a scene of pure tragedy and takes what would have been a gimmick of a set up of ‘perfect life’ to then gleefully trample on into a mournful reflection of the damage that senseless violence inflicts, and this is no less true of either violent act, even the one which the audience would have perhaps cheered were it done in chronological order. The film’s structure brilliantly transforms all violent perpetrators into inhuman monsters, whereas a typical exploitation film would necessitate the glorification of one, or at least the enjoyment of violent acts, even if ironically, as in Noé’s earlier film. I think he gets it all right – better than Haneke’s similar Funny Games films which are similarly meant to ruin the enjoyment of those who enjoy brutal acts of violence and confront them with the subversion of expectations and the draining of vicarious thrill. To attempt to toss it off as a gimmick is I think a dishonest rhetorical trick, a disingenuous misuse of a term with a negative connotation that is meant to avoid the actual employment of the stylistic decision within the film and the effects of that choice. The film is very much about the visceral feeling that a viewer takes from watching a brutally violent film, and it is extremely necessary for Noé to reconstitute the film in such a manner that will re-contextualize typical tropes in a manner that transforms the viewer’s experience from one of enjoyment to one of discomfort and disgust without removing those tropes that otherwise serve to buffet the enjoyment of despicable acts. It is essential that the film is recognized as an exploitation film in the same way that we recognize the genre of film that Altman chose to deconstruct, be it western, war film, aristocratic estate, etc. This is not to say that Noé’s film is any better or worse than Altman’s films, but it is certainly to say that renowned filmmakers have trodden the territory of deconstruction before, and it’s a shame that some choose to attempt to dismiss rather than engage in such techniques. With all that being said, if you don’t enjoy exploitation films to begin with, Irreversible is a much less forgiving film than Altman’s comparably innocuous films, and the punishment of Noé’s techniques is I think meant as a sort of penance for exploitation fans’ potentially reprehensible reveling.

    1. Justine says

      Interesting evaluation, though I am not sure if there is really as much substance in Noe’s films as either Altman or Haneke. I generally prefer their work, and even though Irreversible is my favourite Noe, but I am still struggling to substantiate it. It is aesthetically interesting enough though to merit exploration. I am still searching for a greater truth.

      As for the use of a-chronology, I think in the wrong hands it can be a gimmick. I disagree that it is in this case, in fact, compared to a film like Memento which is not much more than a narrative game, I think it is far more impactful. Thematically it is the essence of the piece.

      1. JeanRZEJ says

        When you get down to it, every film has its storytelling gimmicks. Most films are not told in one continuous shot, or one continuous sequence, and there is little explanation for the resulting ellipses except that what was there was not needed to tell the story as intended – or, on the other hand, what was there was needed to tell the story as intended. As such, all chosen structures can be seen as gimmicks – and even single shot films, to me the least gimmicky thing imaginable, are often called ‘gimmicky’. It’s a strange word, and the only thing stranger is the contexts in which it is employed. I think the word’s employment is far more related to ‘differs from standard usage’ than the actual meaning of the term. This is why the simplest method imaginable, a single shot, is able to be labeled a gimmick when typical cinema, filled with endless reaction shots and a complete obliviousness to the reason behind a camera’s placement. In Enter the Void we have a clear understanding of why the camera is where it is at all times, and then the entire film simply flows along with whatever content is in the camera mind’s eye. Similarly in Russian Ark. The rest is simply the literary content of the viewer, and both seem to be set in real time, so they are both essentially pure. Yet both of these are called gimmicky. To me it makes no sense. These are two examples of the absence of gimmick, of the purity of camera as a viewing device existing in the world of the film. With Irreversible the purity is gone, but I think given that the film is essentially about structure it is far from a gimmick for it to be achronological, it is indeed the very subject of the subtext of the film, and I would venture that the subtext is the entire reason for the film’s existence. As such, it is about as close to gimmick-free as you could get – it is a film about structure. Is love a gimmick in a love story? Seems a rather strong dilution of the impactfulness of the term, to me. Irreversible, Enter the Void – wonderful and minimal uses of structural gimmicks. Avatar: Horrendous offender.

        I chose Haneke’s Funny Games quite intentionally, since it is the same sort of deconstruction of a ‘pain infliction’ genre film, only its approach is roughly the opposite of Noé’s. To me, Haneke has all sorts of different tricks to play with subverting audience expectation – it is essentially a string of teases. Noé’s film, on the other hand, is anything but a tease. It is as naked as could be imagined, both in terms of hiding nothing violent from the viewer and in terms of giving the viewer a context-free look at something that, in the films that Noé is clearly deconstructing, are clothed in all sorts of preconception that cloud the reality that this is a brutal, horrible act. Now, these two violent acts are not the entire content of the film, and Funny Games is not the entirety of Haneke’s oeuvre (although it exists twice), but in these two/three particular instances we can see many similarities and I think Noé’s effort trumps Haneke’s handily. With Altman it is far less comparable in terms of content, although I think focusing simply on the deconstruction element Noé’s effort compares favorably. There are other things to address, and in those it may turn out that Altman is the victor, but I don’t think it’s unfair to compare the two favorably on this aspect alone. He has a few more to pick from, though.

        1. Justine says

          I am not sure I see a lot of deconstruction in Noe’s work, nor do I really see the nakedness you do. I most definetely understand your argument though, I just don’t see it within the same scope. If Noe is attempting to deconstruct the exploitation genre in any way, I think he’s equally falling victim to it’s more basic appeals… at least if we are discussing enter the Void, I think in Irreversible there is some real attempt at presenting provocative and violent material without well, exploiting it (at least in regards to the rape sequence, I think a lot of the rest of the film is problematic, and most definetely exploitive). Enter the Void on the other hand seems to negate so much of what made Irreversible powerful and interesting. Just looking at his presentation of his female character, the film’s seem to be worlds apart.

          I think Avatar and Enter the Void are equally “un-substantial”, for lack of a better word. Both have high ambitions but falter due to weak subtext and generally uninteresting narratives. Enter the Void is by and far more aesthetically adventurous, and whatever ideas and themes that Noe is attempting to explore (in my esteem, it is more than he has interesting ideas, but has a rather juvenile/outdated take on them) are supported by the film’s constructiona and general “look”. I think it’s worthwhile seeing for that reason, and at least deserves some appreciation.

          I like the fact that yuo brign up Bazin, and it’s actually a philosophy that I often try to adopt, though sometimes it is difficult… especially when you do a radio show and are not always free to discuss only the film’s that inspire and incite. At least from my perspective, I think the show reveals an angrier perspective on a film that I generally don’t find moving either way. I was not especially frustrated by the film, nor was I moved by it. I don’t have too much interesting in exploring art that doesn’t incite strong ideas and emotions within me, and in all likelyhood am shortchanging a great many interesting and provocative films as a result. At the very least, I think our shared dislike for the film has spurred some interesting reactions that may not have been shared or expressed had we all loved the film. On one hand, I can appreciate the value of Noe’s film on that basis alone, though I can just as easily feel the frustration on either side as no one can really come to a shared consensus on the quality of Noe’s “vision”.

          Hopefully that made a lick of sense, too many films in one day, and my brain is fried.

          1. JeanRZEJ says

            Enter the Void either deconstructs or at the very least reinvisions 2001. Observe: Think of the dramatic shift from his living body into another state (immaterial spirit) triggered by his own death into the ‘middle section’ (a segment which I find immensely interesting in terms of its composition and repetition aiding in its thematic implications) which then transcends into the final effects-laden final third by diving into – what else – the death of his nephew by abortion (or is it the destruction of his corporeal body by cremation? Either way, death, destruction), triggering an extended passage through the streets of Tokyo (the stargate) and finally arriving at a dreamlike facsimile of an ‘earthbound’ situation (much like the apartment setting of 2001) only to conclude on an image not of a baby, as in 2001, but from a baby’s eyes. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the monolith, simply a gimmick to provide the film its structure. Is Kubrick really positing that humans descended from apes because of a giant black monolith? That’s absurd. It’s a fantasy. Is Noé positing that we float over our bodies, cities, lives after we die before becoming reincarnated? That’s absurd. It’s a terrestrial fantasy. A fantasy that exists, on earth, in a real book. Where is the baby at the end of the film? Floating in the blackness of space? Quite the opposite, he is inhabiting the eyes of a very human baby (himself, if you pay attention, not his sister’s child – although Noé filmed that version, as well), a terrestrial reinvisioning of 2001’s final image. Instead of visiting the origins of man, we visit the man himself. Instead of going to Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite we go to Oscar at the beginning, at his conception and birth. Instead of touching the monolith, we actually enter death. Innumerable corollaries, all entirely based on earth and within the reverberations of one lifespan. Where Kubrick expands both time and space, Noé contracts both.

            I believe that Enter the Void’s middle section is extremely substantial, far more than Kubrick’s middle section of his film, and I think it’s a shame that people are so quick to dismiss the film simply because they haven’t made anything out of it – yet. I’ll let Bazin speak for me on this point: “when the film-maker affronts the public taste there is no justification for his audacity…except insofar as it is possible to admit that it is the spectator who misunderstands what he should, and someday will, like.”

            Once you get au delà de la haine I think you will find yourself on the verge of l’amour. It’s a healing process.

  10. Madeleine says

    Did you say Trouble Every Day was a vampire film? Did you guys ever review that, because I read it as a cannibal thing, and for me, blood and flesh are very different things to consume, and I’d like to hear what you said about it if you interpreted it that way.

    Also, I love Ricky’s commentary on Paz. She is awful. The only thing that girl does is take her tits out.

    I love your Enter the Void review, because you guys make great points and are right about so many things. Although, personally, I liked the film quite a bit, I’ve seen it twice now. But do I think it’s a masterpiece? Hell no, it’s an extremely ambitious mess. But I enjoy it for mostly reasons you guys either mentioned as good things, especially the technical and stylistic aspects, or.. I like to read films from the standpoint of how they effect the viewer, and as criticism of the filmmaker themselves, if that makes any sense. Sort of, remove myself from the part that is berating the viewer, and talk about why, and how it applies to me. And I find DMT to be such an outrageous thing that I would never want to be anywhere near, but at the same time am so intrigued by people’s motivation to want to experience that. I think the film makes very few statements about life and death, but is a great starting point for those conversations. And really, as mentioned in the podcast by Simon with the Anti-Christ bit, I like any movie that gets people talking and thinking.

    1. Justine says

      Though I don’t know if I’d personally qualify Trouble Every Day as a vampire film, I too see some difference between consuming blood and flesh, I think more tradionally the vampire is associated with eating flesh as much as it is with blood. Is it an issue of semantics? I’m not sure, I think it’s actually an interesting though to consider… the difference between cannibal and vampire is on a basic level that a vampire is supernatural and a cannibal is more traditionally not. What is actually motivating the “hungers” in Trouble Every Day is ambiguous, it seems neither natural nor supernatural. There is some science involved, but yea… it’s ambiguous.

      1. Madeleine says

        Somewhere near the beginning, Ricky says “Claire Denis’ Vampire film”, and Simon responds, “Trouble Every Day,” which puzzled me! At first I though maybe he misspoke, but then considered maybe he just viewed the film differently than me an was curious to hear about that. I haven’t seen it in a few years, but it’s a favorite of mine.

        On the blood vs flesh issue.. The supernatural thing definitely plays into it, but I think it’s more just the actual physicality of each… one consists of flesh, it is a direct representation of their beings, and to consume that is to devour another person. Blood seems more like a juice, like sustenance that, yes, comes from another body, but isn’t as severe as the meat. Blood is more frivolous, more romantic, and much easier to make sexual, as no one is necessarily being destroyed. Drained, yes, but not destroyed.

        So all in all I think cannibalizing someone is way more hardcore than drinking their blood.

        1. Ricky D says

          Simon and I had argued on the Claire Denis show… I used the word cannibal and he used vampire …

          he convinced me he was right so much so that I included it in my best vampire films of all time which you can see on the best and worst list

          also take a listen to the Clarie Denis show – it was pretty good.

  11. Simon Howell says

    Something I didn’t have time to elaborate on: I find the way Noé shies away from genuine male nudity kinda fascinating. Paul Verhoeven has been more adventurous in this respect both in Europe and Hollywood since Turkish Delight (1973!) where Noé feels the need to insert a CGI dick or bizarre glowing effects, while not shying away in scenes involving female nudity. Not so much the avant-garde provocateur, then?

    1. Peter Davies says

      There’s male nudity in one of the first scenes with the sister as a stripper, in the back room with her dodgy boss in the overhead shot. No CGI involved in that. There’s also full frontal nudity of Vincent Cassell in Irreversible. That doesn’t really seem like an issue.

      1. Simon Howell says

        I think I’m most baffled by the bizarre – and blatant – flapping CGI penis in Irreversible and the glowing dicks in the last reel of Enter the Void.

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