Irréversible is a film that sent critics vomiting from the theatres at its debut at Cannes last spring. My first advice is wait till its out on video and make liberal use of the fast forward button. Its true nature will reveal itself.
The Argentinian born director Gaspar Noe, headhunted by the French skull cracking sexploitation industry pitched this film to actors Vincent Cassel and his girlfriend at the time Monica Belluci, to make the film that "Tom and Nicole screwed up", that is Eyes Wide Shut
. The use of sexual fantasy in Kubrick's troublesome last effort in order to awaken a marriage 'on the yawns' was actually a warning to stay home and work it out or else risk the consequences. It serves up a threat of sexualized violence against women to justify this, and then obscures it as a fantasy.
Now I want to paraphrase my next sentence by stating that I'm about to reveal a spoiler, an unavoidable spoiler because its the reason that most of the testosterone crowd will be checking this film out. There is a 9-minute scene of sexualized violence against women, the key to the film's chain of events. Revenge then becomes the game of the film.
by Quentin Tarantino was praised because of its alteration of narrative temporality. Noé follows suit where the narration is presented from present to past, not as a flashback but as a film moving backwards. From revenge to reason for revenge, for a frustrated couple that doesn't really know what they have, to a pregnant woman lulling in the green grass, innocently sniffing flowers. To this, Noé coyly derives a statement about the film's theme: Time destroys everything, adding a clever reversal of film titles and credits.
It's not the question of amorality that is giving this film a free ride. The obscurity of sexualized violence in order to elevate the film as art is actually what has jump started a ridiculous claim of its alleged genius. Some find the film fodder for discussions of existentialism, minute studies are done of its voyeuristic camera work and dissections of sexualized violence like a crime scene are being mass produced by critics, ad nauseam. Consider if the film objective was to chronicle, backwards in time, the gruesome removal of foot warts on a wild boar by a Zen monk and showcasing the consequent revenge by a Cub Scout at a Fun House. The absurdity of the film style would be crystal clear and cease to attract. In fact, the film is dependent on obscuring sexual violence so that advocates can wildly clamor around to defend its moot points of alleged artistry. Maybe it's a form of temporary insanity. Does Irréversible mirror Kubrik's last film? A poster of a new born baby from the film 2001
--that could just as well be an intertitle from the silent era-- is the only mirroring Noe really seems capable of pulling off, if our Eyes are Wide Open. That is his simple suture, an icon of innocence which time has destroyed in a brutal crime, and the film's advocates are howling in the wind about visions of dust blown in their face.
For Movie Magazine International, This is Moira Sullivan
© 2003 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 3/03
Irréversible, A Skull Cracking Zero
France - 2002