Irreversible

on March 07, 2003 by Mark Keizer
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   "Irreversible," director Gaspar Noe's much anticipated follow-up to his 1998 Cannes award winner "I Stand Alone," is a repulsive masturbatory exercise whose only achievement is its heroic ratio of style over story. The film, which is being likened to David Cronenberg's similarly shocking "Crash," includes a nine-minute rape scene and an especially brutal murder. While Noe undoubtedly revels in his audience's revulsion, the fact is "Irreversible" is a painfully thin, uninvolving story.

   Not content with the swirling, pulsating camerawork, Noe piles on two more high concept ideas: the story is told backwards (the ending comes first, then the film works back to the beginning) and the each scene is shot in one very long take. The former conceit made more sense in the infinitely superior "Memento," while the latter is irrelevant to the narrative.

   The film begins with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) being taken away in a stretcher from Rectum, an underground gay S&M club. A swirling transition takes us back in time to the inside of the club, where Marcus gets his arm broken after frantically searching for Le Tenia (Jo Prestia). What La Tenia has done and who he has done it to are the film's central mysteries. The answers are revealed within each extended take.

   "Irreversible" is Noe's overheated treatise on Man's vengeful and impulsive nature. However, in this film, we see the effect first, then the cause, until we witness the one fateful, irreversible decision that sets the whole tragic chain of events in motion. Thematically, this is the barest of threads to hang a movie on, which explains the hysterical (though occasionally arresting) visual approach. The film's nine-minute rape scene seems especially ridiculous: not because a rape isn't necessary to the story, but because a nine-minute rape isn't necessary to the story. However, "Irreversible" exists solely to be controversial and Noe has certainly achieved that lofty goal. Starring Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci and Albert Dupontel. Directed and written by Gaspar Noe. Produced by Christophe Rossignon and Richard Grandpierre. A Lions Gate release. Thriller. Not yet rated. Running time: 95 min

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