"Irreversible" is an intriguing drama from director Gaspar Noe, that at times shocks and at other times engages. Then again, the chaotic direction may just leave you bored to tears.
The French movie stars Monica Bellucci (now becoming well known after her major roles in "Tears of the Sun" and "The Matrix" movies) as Alex and Vincent Cassel ("Brotherhood of the Wolf" and "Elizabeth") as Marcus, who are lovers who have the worst of days. The movie begins at the end, a la "Memento," and works its way back to the beginning of the day and the story. From the first few scenes it is very evident that something incredibly disturbing has happened. As Noe works his way back through the story, it becomes clear that Alex has been or is going to be raped. Noe holds very little back, and this is why "Irreversible" is considered one of the most, if not the most controversial films of the year.
The beginning of the movie (the end of the story) exemplifies all of the flaws of the movie. The first five or ten minutes are absolutely terrible. The movie makes little sense, there is very little focus or dialogue, and Noe swings his camera around wildly as if he's a drunk baboon. Literally, he must have looked like a fool swinging what I presume is some kind of handheld camera around in circles; I did not understand the direction and did not appreciate it much at all. Some of the transitions are good, but for the most part if Noe would have settled down and kept the camera's aim on the characters, things would have been much better.
Anyway, "Irreversible" starts off in a gay masochist club called The Rectum, as Marcus is searching for the man that raped his girlfriend. The scene is very chaotic as he runs around screaming at a bunch of screwed up people. At this point I was already thinking whether it was worth my time to watch this piece of trash (or even if I could), but then the movie takes a turn for the better. Not to sound morbid, but the hideously graphic murder scene, where a man is killed with repeated blows to the head with a fire extinguisher, sucked me right in. I was engaged at this point.
The movie proceeds to the time when Alex is raped by a man in a tunnel; I don't know how long the scene was, but it had to be about ten minutes long. Again, it's disturbing, but it's well done.
Now here is where the movie runs into more problems. Remember how I said that all of the film's flaws were exemplified in the opening scene? Well, the problem with "Irreversible" is that the climax takes place in the beginning. The rape takes place in the middle. That means that "nothing" happens at the end of the film.
"Irreversible" kept my attention from that first murder scene to the last minute, and the last half of the film, which focuses on the characters of Alex, Marcus and their friend Pierre, are well done with strong dialogue and character development, but the movie begins to lose its touch at the end. After such a powerful first half, the second half, especially the last ten minutes or so, seem a little muted.
"Irreversible" is a well done movie with lots of strong points, but not without flaws. It is definitely made for a limited audience, but those who don't mind graphic violence will find art out of Gaspar Noe's latest film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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