Gaspar Noé – master of depravity

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A wry director, known to chuckle at the depravity of his own films, Gaspar Noé has followed ‘Irréversible’ with ‘Enter the Void’, another violent and explicit nightmare trip through a city after dark. Dave Calhoun meets him.

French-Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noé, 46, is the provocative showman of cinema, happy to admit that he might be ‘more childish’ than the rest of us. His second film, 2002’s ‘Irréversible’, still has audiences talking about the long, long scene in which Monica Bellucci’s character is raped in a subway. His new film, ‘Enter the Void’, is a hallucination of sex and special effects in which Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), an American shot dead in Tokyo, takes a head trip around the city and his past life after smoking the psychedelic drug DMT. Kinetic, crazed and sleazy, the world of ‘Enter the Void’ is submersive and subversive.

Enter the Void’ hasn’t caused as much of a storm as ‘Irréversible’.
‘No, not so much. Some of the more hateful reviews have focused on the penis ejaculating at the end of the film or on the abortion scene. Or else they say it is porn or too long. The criticism is not as focused as when “Irréversible” came out. With that film, over half of the review would be about the rape scene.’

Did that bother you?
‘It’s reductive, but then so many people heard about “Irréversible” because of this. Even now I can’t take a cab without the cab driver knowing what the movie’s about, or if a cop asks for my ID there’s one chance out of two that he has seen my film.’

After ‘Irréversible’, were people expecting to be shocked again by your new film?
‘It can cause a backlash, a sort of a comedown. After having a violent movie, people say, “Oh what’s coming next? Is it going to be worse?” It’s funny how people perceive these things. In fact, with my first film, “Seul Contre Tous”, I don’t think the killing scene at the end is worse than when a man beats up a pregnant woman. And I don’t think the rape in “Irréversible” is worse than the killing scene.

‘In this film, there are two violent scenes, the car crash and when the main kid, Oscar, gets shot. But I don’t think these scenes are as violent as in my two previous movies. There’s an abortion scene too, but in the script, we had the girl taking a pill. But we met with an abortionist in Japan and he told us that they do it with tongs in Japan and so we shot it that way. And people were very shocked.’

Why did you set the film in Tokyo?
‘I love Tokyo, the night life, the day life. They think they’re building a future, it’s not like they’re protecting the past like in Europe. I thought of shooting it in France or in New York, but I decided that the best place was Tokyo because the guy is a drug dealer and the repression against drugs there is strong. Also, the city is futuristic: you think of “Blade Runner” or “Akira”. In some areas you think you’re in a huge pinball machine, it’s noisy and bright.’

One of the characters in ‘Enter the Void’ is reading ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’. Was that an inspiration?
‘Many people think I’m Buddhist because I did this movie, but I’m not at all, I’m totally atheist. But, yes, the movie is based on the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” because the main character reads it before dying, so all his final dream, his dying dream, is based on its structure. In that book, they say your images become darker the closer you get to the end of your post-mortem trip.’

Most of the film exists within that trip. Was it hard to find the right way of filming that?
‘It was hard to have a script that makes sense to enough people and makes my movie as trippy as possible.  Already people complain that it’s too much like a bad trip or something like that.

‘I would actually complain that the movie is too structured. Originally I wanted the flashbacks to be more like “21 Grams”, to have different layers of time where you jump from one time to the other. I couldn’t manage to do something that made sense in time before we started shooting, so I came back to having a very chronological order to the main character’s flashbacks. I think I would never have got the money to do the movie if I’d made a more experimental film.’

You don’t take yourself too seriously. Do you like to have fun with these dark stories?
‘I want things to be funny, like in “Irréversible” when I called the gay club The Rectum, I thought it was funny. Even in the new one, there are scenes that could be taken seriously, but they are funny too. There are not many people who try to scare you and also undermine themselves. When you see “Straw Dogs” or “Deliverance”, there is no humour, although I like both those movies. Maybe more serious people have a more dramatic approach to life, while mine is more childish.’

I hear you want to make a porn movie next. Maybe in 3D.
‘Yeah, yeah. The only issue that’s going to be important is: where can you show a movie that is arousing? Even in festivals, I think programmers might be too scared of having a film that makes people horny. It’s going to be a debate: how can you show those movies now the porn theatres have all gone?’

Read our review of Enter the Void

Author: Interview: David Jenkins



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