In Vortex, Gaspar Noé films in split screen an aging couple confronted with illness and the end of life, A laborious film, almost demonstrative, but also sometimes beautiful and moving. A film that constantly divides.
On Vortexwe said, we read everywhere that Gaspar Noe had calmed down, that he had matured. That he had put aside the shock scenes, those scenes that made his reputation as a troublemaker of the seraglio. Put aside the strobes, the close-up ejaculations, the blows of the extinguisher in the mouth. And violence. It’s absolutely true, about everything, except about violence. Because Vortex speaks well of a violence, absent in appearance, absent on the screen, but terrible and deep, inexorable in fact: that of old age, of decrepitude in action. Michael Hanekein Lovehad already tackled the subject with the success that we know (Palme d’Or, Césars, Oscar, etc.).
Gaspar Noe rubs shoulders with it in turn, and in his own way of course, driven by personal desires (his grandmother, his mother, Philippe Nahon…) and because the desire to shoot a film with elderly people had been bothering him for several years. LikeLove therefore, the idea is to observe an aging couple confronted with the disease (of Madame, plagued by Alzheimer’s) and at the end of life, their offspring (a daughter at Hanekea son at Noah) assisting, powerless, in the slow and cruel expiration of things. Noah definitely not being able to do like everyone else, not to make a “normal” film (this is not a reproach, on the contrary), he takes up here the process of split-screen experienced on Lux aeterna (as well as those black blinks used in Enter the void).
It’s weird, and then annoying, you have to admit, because the device seems both well thought out, hyper logical in its primary function (she and he each in their solitude, whom the disease gradually moves away, separates necessarily), and at the same time too blatant, a bit academic compared to what it shows. Moreover, the film will never cease to provoke these shared feelings, to be crossed, permanently, by various appreciations. We will find, for example, that quite a few scenes stretch unnecessarily, unfold too slowly, while admitting that this stretching and this slowness contribute, in their own way, to a feeling of total immersion (and suffocation) in daily life. harsh, an intimate field that is breaking down, doomed to disappear.
The first forty minutes of the film are quite symptomatic of these quarrels of judgment. Forty minutes when ten-fifteen could be enough? Leave to macerate, even if it means here and there not telling much, even rambling, or making us understand immediately what seems obvious? Understand that she is lost, lost in the street, in the shops (the scenes where Francoise Lebrun wanders and gets lost in the labyrinthine shelves of small shops are endless), lost even at home, in this apartment crumbling under books and objects and medicine boxes, and he in his corner who thinks only of his book (sometimes to his mistress) that he is writing about cinema and dreams.
We will also sometimes find the film laborious, almost demonstrative in some of its effects (the red lights when the father has a stroke, the whirlwind of shit and capsules in the toilet, the grandson who appears when his father takes drugs…), but sometimes beautiful and moving when Noé aims for ultra simplicity (the succession of static shots of the apartment which is emptying, of a life which is postponed). Finally, we will find that the acting, based exclusively on improvisation, does not always manage to go the distance, to free itself from the exercise, that ofAlex Lutz in particular who, from time to time, seems to no longer know what to say or what to do, when that of Francoise Lebrun on the other hand moves a lot. On Vortexwe will therefore say yes, Noé appeased, Noé mature, Noé soft, Noah released. We will also say that it is a film in the image of the split-screenfinally: which divides, constantly.
A film by Gaspar Noé
With Dario Argento, Francoise Lebrun, Alex Lutz
Duration: 2 hrs 22 mins
Theatrical release: April 13, 2022
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Vortex: decrepitude in action seen by Gaspar Noé – Benzine Magazine