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Tuesday, April 01, 2003


Written and Directed by Gaspar Noe
Starring Monica Bellucci
Review by Mil Peliculas

I'm not sure if we need to have a trilogy of backward storytelling films, so I encourage filmmakers to quit while they are ahead. Adding Irreversible to Memento, that's 2 for 2. Some might include Run Lola Run, but that one wasn't really backwards. Maybe we could call them all the "Playing with Time Trilogy." That works. Now let me get to it.

This French-language film written and directed by Gaspar Noe really punches you in the face, which normally one would not associate with an enjoyable cinematic experience. For instance, if the guy next to you punches you in the face, then that would tend to put a damper on the evening, but as long as it's the filmmakers, you are all right, provided you are prepared.

For starters (or "enders," heh heh--er uh...), the film is backwards, even the end credits roll backwards up the screen, and the letters are mostly backwards, but you can somehow read them. The camera work during the first fifteen or so minutes is very jerky and frantic, almost experimental, mirroring its intense content. In fact, I recommend sitting a bit further back to make sure you can pay attention. I sat too close the first time I saw it, and I ended up missing a key piece of information that lead to me misunderstanding what happened at the beginning of the film (end of the story). In the first few minutes, a man named Marcus is searching through a scary gay nightclub called "The Rectum." Marcus frantically searches for some guy named "The Tenia," but we don't know why. This scene features one of the most brutal murders I've ever seen. As the story moves backward in time, the camera settles down and we begin to piece together the events of the evening. About half way through, is one of the most explicit and in-your-face rape scenes I have ever seen, and there's barely any nudity. But the film is European, so you can count on a few penis shots. What is it with those Europeans and their penis shots? There's entirely too much male nudity going on in film today. Check out my blog page for more thoughts on this disturbing trend.

The first words of the film are the last words spoken in the story: "Time destroys all things." Which, as we know, is a universal truth. The storyteller wants us to be accutely aware of time, hence the backward construction. The lead female, Monica Bellucci, whom we don't meet for quite a while, really becomes the focus of the film. It's difficult for a woman that beautiful and full of life not to be the focus the film, I've never seen her before, but as soon as she hit the screen, I could think of nothing else. As the tragic story regresses, with the horrible things taking place first, it makes the nicer things we learn about these characters all the more poignant. "Fate" seems to be a character in this film, interrupting these people's lives for its own inscrutable purposes.

There are some sweet and playfully voyeuristic moments spent with Marcus and Alex (Bellucci) toward the end of the film that helps to elevate it from the almost pornographic shock of the first half, sort of a reward for sticking with it.

Remember, the film is unrated, and I imagine it would be an NC-17 if it were, for good reason. If you are a woman whose been raped, you may want to skip it all together.