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Gaspar Noe (#110 of 7)

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Gaspar Noé’s Climax

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Cannes Film Review: Climax

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: Climax

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.

Freaks and Geeks Shade Rupe’s Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms

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Freaks and Geeks: Shade Rupe’s Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms
Freaks and Geeks: Shade Rupe’s Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms

Shade Rupe’s Dark Stars Rising is a collection of interviews with first class weirdos in the world of cinema and performance. What makes it a special read for connoisseurs of this sort of bizarre entertainment is Rupe’s earnest, non-ironic, deeply curious set of questions, which bring out a candor and trust in his subjects. Told entirely in Q&A format, there’s a shortage of editorializing, and Rupe allows his superstars to speak for themselves.

For example, the spectacularly large drag queen Divine, best known for appearing in such John Waters classics as Pink Flamingos and Polyester, opens up about various inherent vulnerabilities and interests. Perhaps it’s because Rupe’s very first question isn’t a question—he simply states, “Those are great shoes.” Divine’s response is, “I always say I look normal from my neck to my ankles, and the head and the shoes are always, as I say, fucked up.” Rupe’s follow-up question wonders if Divine gets bugged a lot for looking “normal” and already we’re set up for a little more to the discussion than, “Did you really eat the dog turd in that movie?”

Transgressive bad-boy filmmakers like Gaspar Noe (I Stand Alone) and Richard Kern (You Killed Me First) delve into their work, and how they have evolved over the years. Kern’s deadpan sense of humor about living in his fantasies is summed up when he says, “[When I was making] all that violent stuff, I was in that phase. Now I’m in the pervert phase. I don’t have to hide anymore.” Noe explains how his projects became fueled by personal anger at being rejected by financiers, or observing his friends make movies while his hands were tied. “Then you start hating the person who refused your script,” he says, “[to the point where] you kill her in your own dreams…and [when you finally make the film] it all comes out in the movie!”

Video Review: Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”

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Video Review: Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”
Video Review: Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”

As the new video for Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” begins, you might doubt for a moment that you’re watching a Hype Williams clip: A young child wanders down snowy streets, lensed in vérité black and white while somber piano and strings play. Then the strobe effects kick in, the seizure-inducing titles start to flash, and West starts dancing in front of a blank backdrop and we’re back on well-trodden ground.

West and Williams take their cues from Gaspar Noé’s nihilist afterlife fantasy Enter the Void—not just in its epileptic titles and colorful strobing, but in its snippets of traumatic first-person memory. The song, an allegory about fame, failure, and a quest for redemption, is paired with a stream of frenetic, psychedelic imagery. When the video is actively mimicking the French filmmaker, things work: The song’s lyrics and titles pop off the screen, and the bombardment of fonts, colors, and lights all dance on the boundaries of flicker fusion.