Love (2015)

Love (2015)
  • Time: 134 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: Gaspar Noé
  • Cast: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin


Murphy is an American living in Paris who enters a highly sexually and emotionally charged relationship with the unstable Electra. Unaware of the effect it will have on their relationship, they invite their pretty neighbor into their bed.

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  • “I want to make movies out of blood, sperm and tears,” Murphy (Karl Glusman) declares in Love. Its writer-director, Gaspar Noé, has certainly made that his mission statement over the course of his 17-year-old career. Noé has always sought to confront, assault, repulse, and challenge. This is a filmmaker, after all, whose first film I Stand Alone (Seul Contre Tous) featured a warning text for fainthearted viewers, whose follow-up Irréversible​ depicted a gruelingly brutal rape in a single, unbroken shot, and whose last film Enter the Void ended with an in-utero perspective of copulation, fertilisation, and birth.

    Given the Argentinean’s transgressive bent, it is no surprise that his latest film is a sexually graphic work starring unknown actors performing unsimulated sex. And in 3D, no less. It would be unfair to peg him as the first filmmaker to use sex scenes, simulated or otherwise, as an integral part of the storytelling – Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs, Catherine Breillat’s Romance, and Nagisa Oshima’s 1976 In the Realm of the Senses are but a few in recent and distant memory that have sought to be honest about human sexuality – but perhaps it is safe to say that few of those works have been quite as biographical in detail as Love, which also finds Noé at his tamest and most sentimental. Indeed, the whole of Love can be viewed as both a mememto mori and a mea culpa.

    Murphy, Noé’s stand-in, is an American in Paris, an aspiring filmmaker whose apartment is covered in posters that include D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, Tod Browning’s Freaks, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. He’s thoroughly taken aback when his French girlfriend Electra (Aomi Muyock) admits to never having seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. [Noé has made no secret of Kubrick’s influence on his films, and has cited 2001 as the film that inspired him to become a director. It should also be noted that Kubrick, at one point, pondered directing a pornographic film based on Terry Southern’s novel Blue Movie, a satire about the making of a commercially star-studded porn movie.]

    Murphy and Electra’s manual stimulation of one another opens the film, quickly establishing the first of many sexual acts that the film’s marketing department has heavily promised, the emotional core of the couple’s relationship, and recalling the passionate lovemaking that heralded the beginning of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue (37° 2 le matin). In many respects, Love is a loose remake of Beineix’s film, which told of a doomed amour fou between a failed writer and a tempestuous young woman (Muyock and Betty Blue’s Béatrice Dalle share a dark-haired, gap-toothed, voluptuous sensuality). The following scene shows Murphy in bed, this time next to a kittenish blonde named Omi (Klara Kristin), whom we learn is his wife and the mother of his young child. “I wish I didn’t exist right now. This place is a cage,” Murphy intones via voiceover. News that ex-girlfriend Electra has gone missing further exacerbates his feeling of imprisonment, and he’s riddled with memories of his comparatively carefree time with Electra.

    It is during those remembrances that we discover how Electra had an indirect hand in unraveling their relationship by inviting their neighbour Omi into a threesome. In a sequence that lasts nearly a quarter of an hour, the three lovers tangle and twine and writhe and grind to the rhythms of their sexual impulses. If nothing else, Love contains some beautifully lit and framed sex scenes. The marathon ménage à trois is one example as is a post-coital tableau of a contemplative Murphy and Electra, the sheen of their flesh enhanced by the Caravaggio-red of the sheets. An orgy later in the film owes much to both Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Francis Bacon’s raw and grotesque abstractions.

    The essential problem with Love is that it is actually a boring film. Noé attempts to pave over this with many of his directorial hallmarks – the interior monologue, the slipstream chronology, the aural and visual construction designed to lull viewers in the realm of the senses – but the banality of the dialogue, the sketchy characterisation, and the generally poor acting undermine his intention of crafting an opus of sexual sentimentality.

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