Cannes Film Festival
French provocateur Gaspar Noé’s Climax has been met with enthusiasm at this year’s Cannes—even from those who usually have little tolerance for the psychedelic horror-core aesthetic he’s been dredging since at least 2002’s Irréversible. Maybe that’s because the film, at an eminently approachable 95 minutes, aspires to a relatively more structured iteration of Noé’s anarchic chaos. It even has a fairly straightforward concept: Twenty dancers—played by 19 non-actors plus Algerian actress and model Sofia Boutella—gather in a performance space, dance, chat cattily among each other, then drink some LSD-spiked punch and descend into raving, violent madness.
The conceit here is that even when Climax’s characters are subjected to the full-tilt crucible promised by the film’s premise, their bodies’ convulsions remain dance-like. But broad concerns like concept and conceit have never really been Noé’s problem, and neither really has his style—which has always incorporated some form of choreography, and used vivid colors and a restless camera with inarguably visceral impact. What Noé’s films have so rarely evinced—and what Climax mostly certainly lacks—is the skill, imagination, and intelligence to develop concepts and conceits, to connect them with ideas that could keep the director’s vision from wearing itself out.