Thursday, December 16, 2010

Die like an Eagle: ENTER THE VOID (2009)


ENTER THE VOID is the first drug movie of the 22nd century, so far ahead of its time it's behind it. Centuries from now humans will look at it and laugh: how little we knew of the afterlife, of the fourth through ninth dimensions! Gaspar Noé's warper is the first receding light in the void of what we don't yet know about death. A little over two hours, it's five hours too long. It renders all pornography obsolete, dicing and slicing at fear and desire until nothing is left and everything is revealed. I imagine this film in a room with the films of Americans of similar ballsy-mindedness, like Vincent Gallo, David Lynch, Larry Clark, and Darren Aronofsky--all of whom have a similar push me-pull you thing going with drugged-out sex workers and heartbeat/rapid breath-synched sound walls--and I imagine them all getting jealous and competitive like it's James Dean on planetarium day.  If they were all playing chicken, only Gaspar would have the guts to sail off the cliff.. laughing all the way. Whose car are you going to ride along in, even if it is kind of battered and has those fuzzy day-glo dice? Sometimes day-glo is enough, and guts all over the windshield, and roller coasters, MILFs, MDMA, DMT, GHB, music box Bach, urns, car crashes... No, no, Noé, you had me at goodbye!

The term 'liberation' means different things to different nations, and people, but in every sense of the word there's something liberating about the traumatizing violence in VOID (I'm glad to say there's no brutal rape scene--at least in the cut I saw--so sensitive poetic males like me and the mentally challenged janitor at the end of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN can rest easy). That's not to say there's no trauma, but it's a productive kind- the kind you feel at the bottom of a K-hole, or after a day of dry-heaving through the bottom of a four week bender, a feeling it can't get no lower, a feeling you've reached your AA bottom and will be telling of this day for anniversary meetings in the years to come and even though no seaweed mermaid mom taxi will come to take you away down the comode pipes it hardly matters, since absolutely nothing worse can happen to you. It's the blacksmith on the Pequod showing off his epidermis: "I am past scorching; not easily can'st thou scorch a scar." Now you're free of scorching! It's what enables MARATHON MAN to throw a fortune in diamonds at Laurence Olivier. Away, away, into the selfsame sewer sea. And it's Ahab, beckoning you follow those diamonds down. Now that you're free, Tokyo.


Aronofsky reaches for the scars, the diamond-tossing in the heart monitor undertow of THE WRESTLER and the eye-rape editing of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and the collapsing tent of Marion Crane identity in THE BLACK SWAN, but he's still too American not to flinch or sync his key lights. If he could let all that go, America might finally have as much sex and vacation as France. Instead we get a hungry ghost monkey on our back screeching "show us your tits" at random intervals, chasing all our opportunities away. The fraternité thing enables the French to embrace the surrender, the weening, the realization that chasing your little death down the red light district alleyway, or racing through the airport to give a proper goodbye kiss to your departing Aniston, isn't going to postpone facing the Black Swan demon in the mirror.

The French get the joke, because they know the sting of occupation.  America has not yet admitted complete defeat, while France has done the 12 steps, from Vichy to la Resistance. In World War Two France forked over its lunch money rather than getting its beautiful hair sullied in the pissoir and so they saved Paris from being bombed. Americans fought and died for French freedom, from afar, and read Sartre. "We were never freer than under German occupation," wrote Sartre. He was right. America has never been occupied, so it can only get jealous, cocky, dopey, demonizing, and deny that Sartre's brand of Leopold jackboot Sacher Masoch freedom is worth a damn. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, that's step one of AA. America's still down to party, why, you got a bottle? We don't have a prollem! YOU godda prollem!


I imagine America staggering like a slow-witted kid trying to find his way out of a candy store, and clearly so does Noé -- otherwise why was it so important the lead characters in ENTER THE VOID be Americans?  And why Tokyo, a land who got its ass kicked in the war, worse than any other, and so learned a few things about not going into the militaristic jingo light blindly just because its pretty like a mushroom (psilocybe, cloud, or shitake --it's all the same in the end).  The Japanese are a people fond of flash and Tokyo under Noé's floating spirit camera becomes a land of pulsing red light district fornications, abortions, drugs, and ratty little snitches who should go kill themselves and do us all a favor. On a double bill with LOST IN TRANSLATION, the meaning of being Bill Murray becomes clear. He's the closest thing our current cinema has to a Bogart, staring into the void of death with a wry smile.

When things actually die though, the French notice. When you surrender, lose your lunch, and lick the boot nice... and clean... then you feel the pain, because you are involved in mankind. You know the bell tolls for thee. You're not afraid to meet the eyes of babes. You can dance if you want to... even leave your friends behind, and use the pole without being stoned as a slut by your peers.

stripper, hold the 's'
Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), our dead free-floating POV in the film is not only a dumb American, but a flatliner, a depressed monotonal zombie hipster. Oscar's stripper sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) is, however, terribly cute, though she seemed blurry and far away in the film, a condition understandable in the wake of a terrible car crash that took away their parents at a very young age, but inexcusable in the post-modern wake-up world of ecstasy-addled po-mo Nippon. My question then, is this: what kind of dead parents are Oscar's, that they don't come get their son at the pearly gates station when he floats down/up? This film may take place in Tokyo but it's the most searing indictment of American small town hypocrisy since DOGVILLE. Even beyond the grave, parents are self-serving deadbeats.


I knew VOID was something I had to see and review here, but I was dreading Noé's intensity, his glee in exploiting the helpless masochistic gaze, i.e. watching Monica Bellucci get raped and beaten in IRREVERSIBLE. But at least he understands that the film lover's gaze is a ghost, longing to permeate the silver screen and be re/born into the simulacrum via their favorite movie starlet's womb. Aren't we, when dead or watching horror films, forced to watch helplessly as our future mother is killed or sexually mistreated and all we can do is beat on the glass screen door and scream? But though VOID is drenched in fuzzy sex, I found it more sad than sleazy, like both sexes were just biding their time, exploiting each other--enslaved to the sparkling dollar store bardo like UGETSU or EYES WIDE SHUT. Oscar's sister can handle herself fairly well in the trade; it's Oscar's POV that has the issues. Drifting around Tokyo's pinku parlors, orbiting the copulations and floating into light bulbs like Hitchcock's camera might have if it didn't find its way out of the black tunnel connecting the drain with Janet Leigh's pupil in PSYCHO, we never know what his free-floating POV is thinking. We just see what he (or rather his third eye lens) sees. Drawn to the gravity of the flaming sexual heat where reincarnation can occur and he can get back in the game again, he drifts towards any old giant sun egg in which to be reborn, the way we used to walk around outside the Dead shows when we didn't have that miracle ticket, looking for that unlocked fence, that lax security guard... that one shot. Doses... doses.



This essay was really long, but I edited it down, and down, and down. Let me just say that as your doctor I recommend this movie very highly, but if you have panic attacks, epilepsy or nervous disorders, make sure your fully and properly medicated in a legit Rx fashion before entering.  And just remember, wombs may look nice and relaxing from the outside when your ephemeral, but once the placenta busts and the crying starts, it's the same old Hell... I mean heaven! Heaven... sorry god, Christ, and sponsor.

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