In only a few short years, Franco-Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé has become a notorious go-to director for disturbing, boundary pushing material, even brutally so with 2002's "Irreversible". After his recent 2010 psychedelic, drug-infused thriller "Enter the Void", it only seemed fair to anticipate Noé's next offering, a raw film about a love story complete with very up-close and personal sex scenes. However, amongst the slew of melancholic scenes of longing and sex aplenty, complete with all the fixings, "Love" stills manages to come across as one of Noé's more subdued, bridled works. "Love" is a film as potentially titillating as it is aggravating in its mechanical and one note depiction of the fusion of love and intimacy. It's a sex film with an energetic void in place of a heart.
A deconstruction of "Love" leaves us with a premise and backstory that is rather simple. Noé sticks our main character, a self-reflexive, American film student named Murphy (Karl Glusman), in Paris. He's an appreciative lover of European culture (and women) but still has the relentless pride and ignorance of an American. As is the natural progression of a love story, boy meets girl. Electra (Aomi Muyock), a freeloving, fiery French artist, becomes Murphy's obsession and the catalyst for his own downfall. When Murphy becomes entranced with the young girl next door (another new comer, Klara Kristin), his life becomes a series of disenchanted normalities, calling for a serious session of reflection. This is where we enter the story. Here, the beginning of the film is the end of Murphy's narrative. In the present day, Murphy, now a father and husband within a loveless marriage with the once tempting neighbor, receives a call saying Electra is missing. Fearing the worse, possibly even suicide, we journey back in time with him and revisit where their relationship (and subsequently his life) blossomed and then suddenly went wrong. Muyock, Glusman and Kristin have no inhibitions in their breakthrough roles as newcomers, and do their very best with the material they were given.
With such honesty and raw storytelling, it's hard to say which twist and turn is to blame for the story's faltering progression and tediousness. In various interviews, Noé explains the onslaught of sex within this film is a reflection of some sense of reality. However, when you strip it all down and just look at the story, reality just seems tired amongst all of the gimmick. Perhaps with a film like "Love", one that could haphazardly rest within the mainstream art house genre, its legacy will never be about actual talent. It will live on briefly as a conversation piece, a semi-notorious cult film in a sea of other boundary pushing films of its kind. I, for one, did not partake in seeing this film within its intended theatrical 3D setting. I chose to watch it on the small screen, a personal experience without the constant shame and distraction of watching within a crowd of questionable audience goers. However, the idea of voyeurism quickly morphed into tedious work. At the very end, there's a glimmer of something - a deep sense of loss fills the screen, as Murphy mourns much more than a past girlfriend. He mourns the loss of life and motivation - something that, if touched upon deeper, could have made this a film with far greater impact.
If you can't manage to see the film in 3D or on the big screen (really, don't worry yourself about it), the provocative, luring drama "Love" is available on several VOD platforms, including Vimeo on Demand through its distributor, Alchemy. Noé explains that banning a film (which was the case in some places with "Love") gives it a sense of intrigue and mystery, making people want to see it more. Take that as you will, but go in warned and be prepared: sex, sex, sex, a little story, a touch of melancholy and more tedious sex await.