One could claim that Enter the Void, with its visual audacity and pretentious arrogance, is nothing more than a mere exercise in cinematic futility. A movie made by a heavy-handed egomaniac with no more upon its agenda than a willful, and quite spiteful provocation of the bourgeois moviegoing public. A cinematic middle finger to all those who go see it. Granted, if one were to claim such a thing, one would probably be correct in their assessment (my lovely wife thought this very thing as she walked out midway through), but at the same time, this arrogant, pretentious, middle fingered audacity is exactly what makes Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void the brilliantly fucked-up work of cinematic braggadocio that it is. In other words, Noe's provocateur swagger is where it's at.
Shot in an almost permanent P.O.V. shot via the film's central character Oscar, a young American drug addict living in the neon glow of some sort of post-modern Tokyo dream (we only ever see actor Nathaniel Brown's gaunt and ghostly face when Oscar peers into the mirror), Noe, once again, captures the insistency, the urgency, that has always been the cornerstone of the director's work. Perhaps not going as far as his last film (Irreversible, a remarkable eight years past) but in many ways going even further. Where Irreversible was the story of titular destruction, told, incidentally, in reverse, Enter the Void is the story of death followed by rebirth - the full cycle of life - all told as mindfuck hallucinatory hubris.
Told as a rather skimmed over version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (each cine-chapter plays as one of the book's philosophical Bardos) Enter the Void is the story of the aforementioned junky Oscar who, after finally collecting enough money to have his sister (in full near-incestuous bliss) join him in Tokyo, is killed by police during a sting operation and begins his post-death journey watching over his sister as he promised to do when they were children together - just before the tragic car crash that destroys their childhood in a stunning, shattering moment of time. Using video art from Norwegian VJ artist Glenn Jacobsen (aka Glennwiz) for the more transitory sequences (a more heady version of Dali's twisty turns in Spellbound), Noe captures what one character calls the ultimate trip ("that feeling just after death"). Noe's camera, always peering out through the eyes of his filmic doppelganger, plays as the ultimate trip for that filmgoer getting the cinematic middle finger from the audacious auteur.
Filmed at 25 frames per second (instead of the typical 24fps usually associated with cinema lo these past 75 years) Noe again plays with our minds, and the perceptions no matter how imperceptible they may be. And again and again the director does just that. From the ADD-addled opening credits that are enough to make an epileptic's head explode ala Scanners to the penultimate "money shot" where the weaving, P.O.V. camera finally enters that dark warm womanly place it has been veering toward throughout in its more than implied incestuous titillation - now looking out as the flood of penetration washes over it. Again and again and again the director challenges us to take a leap of faith with him, and again and again and again we do - well, at least those of us who are still playing along for these 150 some middle finger-waving minutes.
Actually Noe's first project (he began writing the screenplay before his first film was ever produced), Enter the Void came into being after the director watched Robert Montgomery's 1947 film, Lady in the Lake while stoned. Also done in P.O.V. style, Noe took this experience and melded it with something more akin to the philosophical undercurrents of 2001 ("The ultimate trip!") and created what one could easily claim as nothing more than a mere exercise in cinematic futility. A movie made by a heavy-handed egomaniac with no more upon its agenda than a willful, and quite spiteful provocation of the bourgeois moviegoing public. Yet, at the very heart of Enter the Void, hidden somewhere between the neoned pop art skyline of a deliriously trippy Tokyo and the "revenge of the giant penis" climactic finale, is the anguished, all-too-human screams of a little girl in the all-too realistic throws of true horror. This image, above all the hallucinatory affectations, is the beating insanity with which will live with you long after the movie, audacious mindfuck that it is, is finally over. [10/24/10]