Director: Gaspar Noé
Cast: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin
Running Time: 2:15
Release Date: 10/30/15 (limited); 11/6/15 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | November 6, 2015
Writer/director Gaspar Noé's insufferable Love combines the tone of a mopey teenager bemoaning his first breakup with a plot that primarily recalls those cheesy letters published in a certain pornographic magazine. You know the ones. They start with such statements of disbelief as, "I never thought this could happen to me," or, "This might sound like a crazy fantasy." Well, the protagonist of this movie never thought it would happen to him, but in Paris, he fell in love with a beautiful woman who was into all sorts of fantasy-sex stuff, like having a threesome with the cute blonde neighbor they met in the lobby of his apartment building and going to a club for swingers.
Predictably, it does not end well. He makes certain we know that over and over and over again.
The mention of pornography is perhaps necessary, because this is a movie that will once again raise the debate about what constitutes pornography and what constitutes art. The movie features plentiful scenes of real sex—multiple positions, multiple orifices, multiple techniques. That, in theory, scores the movie points on the side of pornography. It tells a story, though, so surely it has other aims than mere titilation.
The real question the movie raises is why we need to choose one or the other. Isn't it possible that, in general, a movie could be both or, in the specific case of this movie, neither?
The long slog begins with pure eroticism, as Murphy (Karl Glusman) and Electra (Aomi Muyock) engage in a lengthy act of mutual sexual gratification. It's, well, effective for what it is—a context-less scene that is intended to be arousing.
Arousal ends as soon the movie gives us the context. Murphy awakens next to Omi (Klara Kristin) with the crying of their son in another room. Immediately, Murphy's inner monologue begins, as he says how miserable he is, how the apartment that used to represent freedom has become a cage, how he misses Electra, how he hates Omi, and how he really, really misses Electra. He receives a voice mail from Electra's mother, who is worried about her daughter. She hasn't heard from her in months.
Murphy hasn't seen or heard from his ex-girlfriend in two years. He still pines for her, which gives us such groaners as, "I want to hug you; I want to embrace you." The follow-up is the slightly less subtle, "I really want to hug you; I really want to embrace you."
If Noé's dialogue in Murphy's anguished declarations of love is juvenile, his ruminations on the nature of love are perhaps more embarrassing. "How can something so wonderful," Murphy wonders, "cause so much pain?" That might not be the direct quote (The predictability of what will follow the first half of the statement prompts enough laughter to drown out the second half), but it's close enough to give one the idea of the level of profundity here. In other words, there is none. It really doesn't help that Glusman's line delivery is as expressionless as his face.
The movie is essentially divided into four sections that intermingle as Murphy undergoes a series of flashbacks to how his life became so depressing. Noé stages his actors so that they remain locked in place as time moves around them. It's an intriguing conceit. The repeated cuts to black in the middle of scenes, though, are obnoxiously ostentatious.
The first section is those scenes of Murphy alone in his apartment, thinking the deep thoughts of someone who spent part of a semester in college skimming the works of the nihilistic philosophers. The second has Murphy and Electra in various stages of undress and with different partners. The third shows Murphy and Electra fighting because he gets jealous of her sexual dalliances, despite his proclivity to do the same. There's a lot of yelling and insults, which become about as tedious as the sex scenes (The use of real sex alternates between being a distraction and serving no real function, and it becomes laughably bad with the presence of cheesy electric-guitar score).
The fourth and final section shows the couple at their happiest. We don't get to know either character that well, and what we do learn about them doesn't really generate much sympathy for them.
Noé puts his intentions on the movie's sleeve. Murphy is an aspiring filmmaker who at first wants to show "sentimental sex" but later discovers that love is hard. That's all there is to Love, a stunt that falls flat on its face.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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