Director: Gaspar Noe
After a light fight with her coked up boyfriend Marcus (Cassel), hottie Alex (Belluci) leaves a jumping party to go home. She never gets there; instead she’s anal raped by some sick fuck in a desolate tunnel. Her angry boyfriend and buddy Pierre (Dupontel) decide to take justice into their own hands and hunt the rapist down themselves. It gets very nasty.
"Irreversible" takes reality and punches us full force in the gut with it. Needless to say, it will likely upset most audience members. The film actually created quite a stir at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with folks walking out of the screening early and one broad having to be treated for nausea by paramedics. So what did yours truly think? Well, this was a rough way to start my Monday!
Now yes, the film has an extremely vicious 9-minute rape scene that eventually transcends into a hard beating (I felt every blow…ouch). Yes, we’re taken into a lewd gay S&M club (appropriately named “Rectum”) where hand-jobs, fisting (what????) and blow jobs are all over the place. NOTE TO SELF: Stay away from gay S&M clubs. And yes, the film showcases moments of unadulterated violence that even made my hardened “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” bred soul wince in disgust. But I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news here; all those dark elements EXIST IN OUR SOCIETY! The director didn’t magically pull them out of his ass; they happen all the time, all over the world!
In my book of the dead, movies should not only have the task of entertaining our silly asses, but some of them should also reflect what’s taking place on our good old planet earth. "Irreversible" does just that. I personally don’t understand why the director and the film are being castrated for their honest approach. I mean, it’s not like the flick glamorizes the bleak and brutal happenings. It does the total opposite by showing us their unrestrained reality. There’s no sugar coating here yall! Rape is unfortunately very common and it happens on a regular basis around the globe. Even though most of us don’t see it, it’s still happening! This movie reminded me of what goes down behind my ignorant back and I think that’s a good thing. There’s more to life than our own self contained little existences. Having said that…MAN, IS THE WORLD FUCKED UP OR WHAT?
Narrative-wise, the film follows in “Memento’s” footsteps and plays everything backwards. Taking that route definitely gave the film an extra dimension, elevating the simple script to a higher level. It drove the theme of life’s fragile and unpredictable nature home. Leaving the theatre, thoughts like these raced through my mind: We might not see the nightmare coming around the corner. An everyday, happy couple CAN be destroyed by our violent society. A pragmatic and peaceful man CAN be turned into a primal, aggressive animal by a tragic event. We never think it will happen to us, until it does! Having the flick play in reverse reinforced those aspects and made my noggin work overtime. Sure, I would’ve had an easier time delving into the characters and the situation from the get-go if the action would’ve been played out in chronological order, but then the picture’s artistic and more existential edge would’ve been lost. So good move, Mr. Director! I also particularly dug the attention the film put on classic and sad human behavioral patterns. Notice how Marcus didn’t care that somebody got raped until he found out that it was his girl. Notice how that dude walking in the tunnel turned back the other way once he saw the rape taking place. I dug those little touches.
On a character level, the players here are mostly defined by the situations and that gave the flick a “What if this happened to me? What would I do?” type of vibe. Huge props go out to the bang-on cast who obviously improvised a lot of the dialogue. Having actors of Vincent Cassel and Monica Belluci’s caliber in the film made the characters so much more appealing and endearing. I particularly enjoyed the subway “orgasm” conversation. Although I still don’t get how an ex-boyfriend can talk about having sex with his ex-gal in front of her new boyfriend...I still smiled at the bantering. Isn’t that out of line though? If some ex-boyfriend would talk about the “hey days” of dicking my girl in front of me, I’d kick his ass! But that’s just me. Ahhh the French, so much more sexually liberated than we are.
I do have some pet peeves with the film though. The smaller one would be how the film dragged its ending out a bit too much. I understood why the movie went so far back and actually relished many of its more “softer” scenes, but I felt it should’ve ended a tad earlier to retain the momentum of what took place. But my main beef has to do with some of the directing choices. Since the story begins with the gruesome ending, to go back to the happier beginning, the opening shots are all over the place, with the camera traveling off walls and never seemingly finding a point of focus. I understood what the director was trying to do, he was basically echoing the chaos of the situation and the characters jumbled state of mind through his visuals, but I got very frustrated due to the zany camera shots. I wanted to get involved in the story so bad, but the epileptic cam would never stop shaking long enough to let me in. I even started to feel woozy at some points. In my opinion, the man overdoes it and managed to alienate me on some occasions. Is that how you should start a movie? By keeping your audience out? Not in my school of filmmaking! Easy on the “speed” there buddy! It’s not good for you!
But overall, there’s no denying Irreversible’s power and artistic worth. It’s a unique, shocking and unapologetic journey into life’s more disturbing corners. Even the light and charming scenes that took place near the end wound up being negated since they really happened at the beginning of the story before they were ruined by the sheer brutality of human behavior! NOW THAT’S FREAKING DARK! If you’re ready for a sour slice of life, dig in but be warned…it’s going to hurt!
Do you know what happens to a head when it’s relentlessly bashed with a fire extinguisher? No? Well, after this bitter pill...you’ll know. We also get to see a girl get her head kicked in, pounded on the floor on and punched on repeatedly. Needless to say, her head looked very messy afterwards. NOT FUN VIOLENCE!
Vincent Cassel (Marcus) is a favorite of mine and hit all the right notes as the vengeful, cocaine-loving boyfriend. He shines in both the crazy and lighter moments. Monica Belluci (Alex) is stunningly beautiful and does what she has to do very well. I can’t imagine how hard the rape scene must have been on her emotionally. Both she and Cassel have great chemistry together and I’m sure the fact that they’re a couple in real life helped on that front. Albert Dupontel (Pierre) does fine as the more level headed and square ex-boyfriend. He brought balance to the story in respect to the "out there" Cassel character.
T & A
We get Monica Belluci in the buff but half of her nude scenes aren’t easy to watch so I didn’t get to enjoy the nudity. Vincent Cassel also shows it all and for all you ladies that keep complaining that you don’t get enough full frontal male shots in movies…enjoy…it’s a freaking cock festival in this house!
On the upside, I was hip to some of the shot compositions, the atmospheric lighting and the nihilistic mood. But on the downside, the go around and around and around shots made me dizzy and the wandering camera movements were slick for 5 minutes and then they become very grating. If you thought "The Blair Witch Project" was tough on your lunch, wait till you see the first 40 minutes of this baby. Thankfully, the camera stabilizes itself for the second half of the movie. NOTE: I dug the references to Kubrick and the Kubrick-like credits that opened the movie…very kool! I guess the man is a Kubrick fan!
There isn’t much of a score here; but the director does play with sounds a lot. You know...all those low grumbling noises David Lynch always uses? We get something similar here and it’s mucho effective.
When I came out of the theater, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this movie. Now that it’s sunk in and that I’ve written this review, I can safely say that I appreciate and respect this picture. It made me ask myself this question today: What would I do if some sicko raped my girlfriend or a loved one? After some soul searching, I came up with this: I’d kill him a lot. I’m always thankful for movies that make me reflect but that doesn’t mean that I’m eager to see this cinematic vice grip again. This is a true HORROR movie that puts on display REAL LIFE human evil! Repeat viewing isn’t on its side. I do applaud the director for having the balls to address the subject matter though. In 2000, “Requiem for a Dream” kicked my ass all over the place! This year, "Irreversible" knocked me out with a swift left hook to the head. I guess we all need a good beating sometimes to remind us of where we live…I’m depressed now…
Here are quotes from some of the Cannes audience members who walked out of this film's screening:
"It's disturbing and incredibly violent," Todd Rubenstein, an entertainment lawyer from Los Angeles, told Reuters as he left the auditorium.
"Not just the graphic violence and the language but the disorienting camera work made my stomach churn."
"It was too aggressive, too violent," said Pascal Gentil, a Tae Kwon Do medallist for France at the Sydney Olympics (news - web sites), as he left with a companion after 15 minutes.
"When I see a film like that I find it hard to imagine what people must have inside them that they are able to make such a thing. I found it sickening."
“This is real life, you fuckers!", said The Arrow to a crowd of displeased Cannes walkouts. He went on to say: "Maybe if you’d take two seconds away from your satin sheets and your fancy cars, you’d realize that it’s not ALL puppy dogs and ice cream all over the world. Go rent "Black Knight" and stay ignorant you freaking fools!”