by Phillip Clarke
CALGARY-At no point throughout his career has Gaspar Noé ever been a stranger to controversy. He’s a director whose never shied away from equally dark or disturbing subject matter in any one of his films, be they short subject or feature length. Stand Alone, Irreversible and Enter The Void are just as some examples of the kind of stories he likes to tell. To say that Climax is an acquired taste would be a gross understatement at the very least.
When a group of dancers get together to practice their respective routines over the course of a couple days, all seems well at first. Each person has their own unique style and flavour that they bring to the table. Having the ability to manipulate one’s own muscles into the most malleable of ways to multiple different rhythms is an art form unto itself.
Each member of the dance troupe has their own unique story to tell, where no two performers are alike. Naturally things go from bad to worse when they all they start to believe that the punchbowl of sangria at the heart of their communion has been insidiously spiked. The lighting throughout the building drastically changes from stark red, to dank blue and even sickly green, oftentimes when it doesn’t make logical sense. Than again, nothing makes sense when you’re on acid.
Climax is by no means an easy film to watch. As stated in the opening minutes, Noé boldly declares that the film is unapologetically French by nature. It certainly delivers on that brazen claim full stop. From its extensive and graphic conversations about sex throughout, Climax proudly wears its nation’s patriotism on its sleeve. Clocking in at a relatively standard 96 minutes in length, it bizarrely feels twice as long. Noé certainly doesn’t let the audience at any point settle in to get comfortable. From the seemingly endless opening interviews, to the minutes-long extended shots of characters dancing to nineties techno, the film is a testament to one’s own sense of patience.
Many shots are done in jaw-dropping long takes. The camera freely follows its several characters with a fluidity that while technically phenomenal, is by the same token utterly baffling. The cinematography feels equal parts Terrence Malick in its aimlessness, to Tom Hooper in its uncomfortably jarring intimacy up close. Noé goes so far as to rotate the camera from extended Dutch angle shots to being completely upside down, mere inches from off the ground for extended periods of time. Watching all of the characters spiral out of a control into continually deeper descents of madcap madness is never fun, and it’s not supposed to be.
Climax is hauntingly beautiful, beguiling to witness, stressful to be privy to, and nauseating to experience. It will make you a different person when its over. If you can stick through it however, you’ll feel like you deserve a medal for completion on the very fact alone. One thing’s for sure, Gaspar Noé certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.Calgary International Film Festival, Claude Gajan Maull, Climax, Gaspar Noe, horror, Romain Guillermic, Sofia Boutella