R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
time destroys all things Argentine-born director Noe is no stranger to controversy; his last film I Stand Alone was nearly banned in Britain, and this one may never get past the censors because it's impossible to cut anything out. And why should he? This is a powerfully honest film: no exploitation, no hyperbolic moralizing, nothing gratuitous at all. Yes, it's very graphic, but in almost every way it's far more moral than most PG-13 rubbish Hollywood puts out there. This is an incisive and toe-curlingly real story told inventively, artistically ... and backwards, like Memento.

The film opens with a brutal scene in which two men, Marcus and Pierre (Cassel and Dupontel), track down a guy in a gay S&M nightclub. They are dead-set on revenge and the ensuing scuffle is horrifically violent. The next scene takes place immediately beforehand, and so on, until we learn that this was revenge for the extremely brutal rape of Marcus' girlfriend Alex (Bellucci), who happens to be his best pal Pierre's ex. As we travel back through this evening, the film takes on a dramatic power that catches us completely off guard because we now know where this night is headed, while the characters obviously do not.

There is so much going on in this film, and it says so much about human interaction, that it's almost hard to believe that Noe's script was only a three-page outline of 12 scenes to be filmed in one continuous take each. He let the actors improvise each scene, and the result is amazing! The performances are shockingly real; the actors take the characters through a mind-boggling arc that is a serious gut-punch due to the reversed structure. We never imagine these vengeful thugs could evolve from such relaxed intimacy and humour.

Meanwhile, Noe's camera is alive, breathing, spinning, prowling through each long take (the rape scene is particularly harrowing--10 minutes without a cut). Sometimes this movement obscures the action irritatingly, but mostly it catches the characters' internal feelings, drawing us into each scene so we can feel the violence, fear and warmth. Yes, we're completely unprepared for the scenes of light-hearted banter and naked sweetness that come toward the end of the film. This is virtuoso filmmaking that deserves to be seen, not censored.

cert 18tbc very strong themes, violence, language, nudity, drugs 11.Oct.02

Irréversible: Straight Cut   Inversion Intégrale
release Venice Film Festival 2019, Fr 6.Sep.19, US 10.Feb.23

Irreversible: Straight Cut It's fascinating that Gaspar Noe decided after so many years to let people experience a new set of jarring emotions by simply reordering the same material. Watching this film re-edited into chronological order is a completely new experience. This adds a kick to the hints of dread at the start, as well as knowing references to what is coming, although the sexy and playful improvisational opening sequences can't prepare the audience for where the story is headed in its later scenes. So instead of a grimly astute excavation of a horrific incident, this version is like watching a catastrophic train wreck in slow motion. Now, we hang on helplessly as a lively, happy evening spirals terrifyingly out of control.

This means that the film's series of long takes builds a more subtle dramatic realism, which is very different from an extending back-story in which you learn the context after the fact. And putting discussions of pleasure, consent, sexuality and relationships earlier in the narrative, creates a distinctly new reaction to what happens later. Both versions are boldly provocative and intensely involving. And this one expands the impact of the nightmare, because we know these people before such hideous brutality destroys their lives. In addition, the depiction of male aggression and violence is now even uglier.


dir-scr Gaspar Noe
with Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia, Philippe Nahon, Stephane Drouot, Jean-Louis Costes, Mourad Khima, Gaspar Noe
release UK 31.Jan.03; US 7.Mar.03
Studio Canal
02/France 1h35

Early evening. Alex and Marcus (Bellucci and Cassel) share a moment of honest tenderness before they head off to a party...

cassel bellucci

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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... time destroys all things "Sorry to be blunt, but you have to be utterly stupid to think this film is art. Any cynical director knows that if he puts utterly disgusting images in a film, then he'll probably get all sorts of gullible critics to rave about how daring his film is. It's a trend that is all-too predictable. That ordinary people can be brutalized, and strike out savagely in return, is the only point of Irreversible, one that been proved beyond doubt by real events like the Holocaust and the massacres in Rwanda and other places. I could write much more about this film, and the others of similar type in recent French cinema that receive most of their critical praise almost exclusively from their willingness to show explicit sex and violence, but shock value is not enough. Beyond these scenes, I've found there is really not much to these films. Last comment, just because the actors improvised brilliantly and are willing to do almost anything doesn't mean the film actually adds up to anything. When such dedication is paired with a director who is not just out to shock, like DeNiro in Scorsese's Raging Bull, then the result is truly art, not a so-called piece of 'virtuoso filmmaking' that Irreversible is supposed to be." --K Russell, Vancouver 27.Feb.03
© 2002, 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall