The films of Gasper Noé typically leave me cold. I watch them, I recognize that a director of great skill has created the movie, but the content leaves me unmoved.
I’m by no means a Noé connoisseur. He’s produced a lot of work, but I have seen four of his films now: Irrévisible, Enter the Void, Love, and Climax. The first two films have powerful moments and an impressive visual style, but as a whole, they struck me as noble film experiments, nothing more. Love…no thanks.
Then we get to Climax. All the experimental, visual promise that Noé displayed in the other three films comes together to form a memorable, mind-blowing visual and psychological treat.
In the film, a French dance group of 24 members (led by the beautiful and talented Sofia Boutella) is rehearsing for an upcoming dance competition against the United States. They’ve taken over an isolated and abandoned countryside school during the middle of winter. After a brief prologue and a mysterious, bloodied woman crawling in the snow, this AMAZING thing happens:
Enjoy the feel-good vibes, because they’re about to end.
The rehearsal ends and the group engages in a party to celebrate the last rehearsal before the competition. Sangria and snacks are served, friends break off into groups, and we are treated to 20 minutes of random discussions that function as character development. There is Selva (Sofia Boutella), the leader of the dance troupe. A large, black man named DJ Daddy is the de facto father figure to the group and provides the music beats. Other notables are David, an obnoxious lothario who is the closest thing to a true antagonist, and Lou, who is pregnant and is suspected of spiking the punch.
Around the 45-minute mark, the dancers notice that those who drank the sangria are feeling weird. Thus begins an incredible 42-minute-long single take showing what has to be the worst drug trip ever experienced in a communal setting.
Someone has spiked the sangria with extremely powerful LSD.
Friends turn on each other. Fights break out. Sex breaks out. Little Tito is locked in a room and messes with the electrical generator.
Noé unleashes all his typical filmmaker tricks to disorient the viewer. Upside down camera work. Pulsating music. Strobing lights. And damn, it works well.
Other than Sofia Boutella (who is mesmerizing in this movie), the acting is a bit sketchy. All but one of the dancers are just that: professional dancers and not actors. But who cares when they’re pulling off moves like this:
This is an experimental film, so by nature, it will produce divisive opinions. If you’ve seen it, let me know. It’s free right now on Amazon Prime. I’m dying to geek out with people about it. Until then, I’m going to jam to the Climax OST.
And, yes, the film does answer the question of “Who spiked the sangria?” Attentive viewers will pick up the clues throughout the movie.