18 – 135mins – 2015
“Blood, sperm and tears… the essence of life. I think movies should contain that, or be made of that.”
Practicing what it preaches, this erotic French drama – which was originally released to cinemas in thrust-enhancing stereoscopic 3D – packs a perversely explicit combination of all three key ingredients into its bumper two hour plus runtime. Love slooooowly charts the racy, rocky, rollercoaster romance between American film student Murphy (Karl Glusman) and his Parisian ex, Electra (Aomi Muyock), following Murphy’s discovery that she has gone missing.
Shown in Murphy’s no-holds-barred flashbacks which leave nothing to the imagination, we quickly learn that our narrator – who bears a striking similarity to a young Michael Shannon – is a disgustingly bitter druggie prone to fly into unhinged rages. He’s a useless, cheating, irresponsible twat who lost Electra when he had an affair with his young neighbour (Klara Kristin), who became pregnant as a result.
“I’m a loser, yeah. Just a dick… and I fucked it all up.”
Directed by Gaspar Noé, Love is a real patience-testing marathon which infuriates as much as it intrigues. In between all the uncomfortably intimate sex scenes (most of which are shot from zoomed-in, bird’s-eye view), there is a lot of unstable, sweary screeches and threats from boorish and antagonist personalities who are often high on opium.
Like the damaged characters, this flawed film has big issues, but it isn’t unconditionally repelling. The choppy, slow-release, time-flick narrative is complemented by a slow, smoky guitar-led bluesy score, and for all his unendearing flaws, Murphy is prone to some deep philosophising and poetic soul searching.
Exemplifying the intimate POV, the film often employs a blink-like momentary black-out technique which immediately returns you to the exact same scene, following a reflective pause. Coupled with Murphy’s studying of the cinematic medium, this was clearly a purposeful quirk, however after frequent overuse in a film that more than outstays its welcome and ends with no sense of closure or narrative progression, it begins to just irritate.
Scripting as well as directing himself, unflinching auteur Noé obviously had a clear vision for this controversial project, and the fact that he not only co-stars but also names two characters after himself, indicates this is a highly personal passion piece for him. Sadly, any heartfelt message is outstripped by the disproportionate stripping. Let’s face it, all most viewers will remember is selfish, disgusting characters doing selfish, disgusting things to one another – and that isn’t Love.