Described by its own director as influenced by Ken Russell’s infamous The Devils (1971), Gaspar Noe’s Climax (2018) is exemplarily of what makes the director such a controversially perceived director; sex, drugs, evocative images. All combined into a pulsating feature, Noe allows the twisted contortions of the human form to merge with psychoanalytic discussion of desire and repression. Still, flowing freely akin to the thudding beats of the film’s soundtrack, there is a strange intoxicating quality here. Reflective of a heavy night of drinking, accompanied by a rancid hangover, you cannot help but be absorbed in the wonders of the night before – notably revelling in the garish moments.
Introducing the wannabe dancers in the form of audition tapes- filmed through the vice of an old TV alongside banks by retro VHS of pulpy giallo flicks as Suspiria (1977) – Noe’s feature proceeds on a joyously playful note. Supported by his cast of non-professional actors, apart from Sophia Boutella’s presence as Selva, the group of eclectic dancers come to be spiked with drugs in their fruit punch. Unfolding over the course of an evening in one location, their experiences under the control of drugs serves to deconstruct the human psyche to its most base values.
Focusing on the expressive modes of dancing, adorned with an elongated title sequence, flashes of Emil Cioran philosophy on the meaning of human existence, or lack of thereof, set its tone further. Before any of the director’s overt provocative style induces the screen, the film already places you in a reverie like state.
Consequentially heightened by another form of filmmaking in Benoît Debie’s cinematography, the sustained build of fluent camera movements situates one in a trance. Adopting low key lighting with labyrinthine set designs, corresponding with the absence morality, head spinning 360 camera tilts interpolate the viewer into the dancer’s dazed mental position.
Becoming its own organic being, the soundtrack moves and transforms as the character’s being to do so. Ranging from Cerrone’s Supernature to Lil Louis’ French Kiss to electro techno from, it’s as if Noe wants to merge the experience of electronic music with the moving image. Not unlike the process to which Boiler Room or other experimental venues are deploying, the result in Climax is a hazy ambience of dark melodic records. Merging with the director’s hyper awareness of sexuality, French Kiss comes to poetically reflect his idiocracies as a visionary filmmaker.
Imbued from the outset with a dizzy approach to all cinematic aspects, Climax will inevitably leave your head and heart throbbing from its special blend of cinema. The thrill of Climax is enough for one sitting but what that course offers is an exhilarating watching that will digest in the most spectacular fashion. Despite this, after all is finished in Noe’s peculiar little world, it will leave you needing a detox green smoothie and clean fresh air in the best possible sense.
Climax is released on the 21st September 2018.
Words by Alsdair Bayman @alasdairbayman.