Irreversible pitches you straight into the abyss, revealing Cassel pounded to a pulp and his assailant's head staved in with a fire extinguisher; then it swivels into the past, negotiating the real-time agony of Bellucci being raped in an underpass, regressing ever backwards into the chaste light of earlier that day. Rest assured it all ends happily ever before. The title doesn't merely toy with the idea of undoing time, corruption, ruin and such shackles; it also brandishes the suggestion that the film itself poses a cinematic breach, a taboo-torching dereliction of no return. That's an exaggeration, of course, but there's no denying Noé's investment in the shock strategy of extreme realism, nor his virtuosity in the practice. Yet is it any more reprehensible a display than the similarly immersive opening of, say, Saving Private Ryan? And isn't Noé's implacably knowing, twisted relationship with his audience comparable to a more adolescent, swaggering Michael Haneke? You could choke on this nut. Morally banal, technically prodigal and dramatically packed with cheap ironies Irreversible may be, but, polemically at least, it's a tour de force.