Where to start with the films of Gaspar Noé

Gaspar Noé is a director synonymous with shock. The Franco-Argentinian auteur’s films – whether they deal with sex, drugs or the afterlife – have a habit of making grandiose (often over the top) statements about the human condition, wrapping existential questions in difficult and dangerous packages. Since his first feature film I am alone premiering at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, with a poster emblazoned with a crimson “Warning” sticker (an allusion to his grueling climax), people approached his films with hesitation.

His latest movie Vortex, in US cinemas now and in UK cinemas from Friday May 13, is a pivotal piece in the filmmaker’s oeuvre, as it is the most personal. Made in the wake of a life-threatening brain hemorrhage, it examines the relationship of an elderly couple as they simultaneously lose sight of each other and their health: the wife, a retired psychiatrist known only as the name of Mother, suffers from dementia; her husband, Father, is a cardiac author. The film watches each of them, often in split-screen, chronicling their decline, as their estranged son tries to make sense of the situation.

It was bait and switch for his first audience at the Cannes Film Festival last year, who expected a spiraling sequel to his 2018 film Climax. But if most of this is gibberish to you, don’t worry. Gaspar Noé’s filmography is small in size compared to other authors. If you’re wondering where to start, here’s our guide.

The Entry Point is… Enter the Void (2009)

An atheist vision of the afterlife, Step into the void is a rare film by Gaspar Noé that especially impressed critics and audiences. A good entry point, as it captures the bold, trippy aesthetic of which Gaspar is a master, built around a captivating yet loose narrative structure, it follows an American drug dealer (Nathaniel Brown) into endless witty encounters of Tokyo after being killed in a policeman. bust: witness to his parents from the past, his own autopsy and the future, from where he seeks his sex worker sister, played by Paz de la Huerta.

Need a viewing? Climax (2018)

A certified fever dream that leaves a painful or special mark on the beholder, the secret makes Climax captures a group of friends – go-go dancers, Voguers and break-dancers – on a wild hallucinogenic trip to a remote house outside of Paris. What ensues is bloody mayhem: spiked punches, spinning punches and a soundtrack that remains a staple for gays at house parties everywhere. Knowing a little before entering it is the best way to see it.

The One Everyone Saw Is…Love (2015)

For a short time when first released, Love rocked the world of arthouse cinema: a slow-paced, exploratory feature about a three-way relationship that featured unsimulated sex. It received mediocre to bad reviews (possibly due to the free 3D version which allowed bodily fluids to fly over moviegoers’ shoulders), but was given a second life last year, when it was been added to Netflix. A TikTok trend, suggesting people watch the first five minutes of Love and record their reaction which has gone viral; as a result, it surely remains the most-watched movies in the author’s catalog. The question remains though: how many people actually made it to the end of this depressing two and a half hour fuckfest? It might be difficult (no pun intended), but it’s worth saying that you experienced Gaspar in challenge mode.

The Underrated Gem Is…Irreversible (2002)

No Gaspar Noé deep dive is complete without the critical and salacious bashing Irreversible. A cult classic with a large fanbase, the late and famous film critic Roger Ebert once called it “so violent and cruel that most people will find it unapproachable”. Told, ironic given the title, in reverse, it’s a tale of brutal revenge in which Monica Bellucci plays a woman whose lover and ex-partner band together to avenge the man who killed her. raped. When it finally hit regular cinemas, critics predicted it would be “the most released film” of the year. They were right!

The Deep Cut Is… I Stand Alone (1998)

Gaspar’s least seen film (apart from his coterie of shorts) is probably his first film, I am alone. Released in 1998 to great critical acclaim but little box office splash (it made just $58,000), the film chronicles the life of a horse meat butcher, from his sad childhood to his present moment, participating in a career considered controversial in late-20th-century France. It is, like most of the filmmaker’s works, deeply uncomfortable and rich in discomfort. But for those brave enough to sit down, you’ll witness the first moments of a special filmmaker. Love or hate what he does, no one can deny that arthouse cinema is much more interesting with the presence of Gaspar Noé.

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