Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Tibetan Book of Boobies

I spent Independence Day like a true American -- enjoying French culture. Cause if it weren't for the French, your freedom fries would still be "chips" and the Tea Party would have a legitimate beef about their taxes going to the overblown wedding of two dandies who by accident of birth are very important and stuff.

Anyway, rather than blowing my eardrums with fireworks, I was blowing my mind with Gasper Noe's 2009 film Enter the Void -- a deeply nuanced and spiritual look at life, the universe, and everything by way of getting high as balls in Tokyo and screwing your sister. This is par for the course for Noe, whose previous big hit Irreversible is mostly known for being the movie where Monica Belucci gets raped in the ass. That's not hyperbole or my normal rhetorical flourish, Monica Belucci spends about ten minutes or so crying while some guy jams his euro-pol up her rectum. It's all part of this brave new trend in indie films of unsimulated sex acts for "realism" and "more dollaz."

Enter the Void has gotten alot of press about it's revolutionary cinematography, at least enough to coat the DVD box with gushing blurbs. The film begins entirely in firs person from Oscar -- a noodley white kid selling X to strippers -- and technically continues from said perspective after he gets shot by the cops and bleeds out in one of those ridiculous Japanese floor urinals. It's a swirling, hallucinatory trip through the neon-blasted Tokyo night and then into Oscar's memories, working back and forth in time but in such a way that the disparate scenes actually compose a coherent and rather linear plot. And really, it is all damn fun to look at.

Prior to his death, Oscar and a friend had been discussing the Tibetan Book of the Dead and how souls don't get to leave this world for something higher but are, as Oscar puts it, "stuck here for all eternity." He's a bit put out by the prospect and soon you see why. All the guy really has going in life is getting high and the... ambiguous relationship with his sister Linda. This stems from losing their parents in a car accident -- replicated in graphic detail -- at a young age which has made the siblings, uh, close. It doesn't look like anything happens, or happened when Oscar was alive but the few scenes of his disembodied spirit hovering above and then in two separate men while they're plowing Linda... well, draw your own conclusions.

Because, as I imply in the title, the only thing that crops up more in Oscar's memories than getting high is topless women. His mother when he was a baby, his sister, his fidgety friend's mom -- whom he hooks up with, inspiring said fidget to set up the sting where Oscar gets capped by Tokyo's finest -- all the way to the very end, or beginning, when a newborn Oscar arrives fresh into the world and his blurry baby eyes can focus on one thing...

The movie falters in a few places. First, either it was miced poorly or Noe intended the discrepancy in sound and therefore should whack himself in the ear with a ballpeen hammer. I had to constantly lower then raise the volume due to some sudden crash of action followed by strung out white people in Tokyo muttering important plot points under their breath. And for all the fun of the weird framing, you really lose a connection to the characters when the camera isn't getting up into their faces. The physical distance of the shot translates into an emotional distance for the audience. Why should we care about these people if we can't even get a clear look into their eyes?

And I admit this is a personal gripe, but I get annoyed by movies that seem to be trading in urban seediness purely for the shock value among their safe, clean audience. This movie boils down to a drug dealer and his stripper sister, all glamorous sin for the stiff yuppies who make up the bulk of the indie film market. It even felt like Noe wasn't trying at times -- I swear it took at least an hour until someone mentioned any specific drug. Until then, it was just drugs, drugs, eeevul drugs! How sexy!

But that's just excessive, cheap icing on a pretty decent cake. Life as a cycle is the more serious theme at work here, along with a sort of eternal recurrence. It doesn't specify if that's infinite reincarnation or infinite reliving of one's own life without variation -- toke, ogle sister, toke, bleed out in toilet, repeat. But that's not what movies like this are really concerned about. This is an exercise in mood and dream imagery and it does a bang up job.

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