Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander, Masato Tanno, Ed Spear, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn, Nobu Imai, Sakiko Fukuhara, Janice B�liveau-Sicotte, Sara Stockbridge, Stuart Miller, Emi Takeuchi
Written by: Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Gaspar Noé
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 137
Date: 05/22/2009

Enter the Void (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Death Trip

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

There are two kinds of shocking filmmakers, those that make films with themselves in mind, and those that make films with the audience in mind. This is the basic difference between an artist and a huckster, and Gaspar Noe is one of the latter. In all three of his films that I've seen (including I Stand Alone and Irreversible), he seems to be addressing the audience directly, as in "get a load of this!" Or worse, he challenges them to sit through his films. It's as if he automatically assumes his work is too challenging for mere mortals; this condescension comes through in each frame.

If he's not condescending, he's self-congratulating, as when he assumes that the themes of Enter the Void are interesting enough to fill up a nearly 2-1/2 hour film. Essentially Enter the Void is like Ghost without the romance, humor or suspense. It tells the story of a monosyllabic teen, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), living in Tokyo. He has taken to dealing drugs to make his living, although he insists he's not a drug dealer, or a junkie. His sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) has become a stripper and practically tries to make out with Oscar whenever she sees him.

After a long setup in which Oscar gets high and watches some colors spin around on the ceiling, he agrees to meet a friend at a club for a drug buy. Unfortunately, the friend has called the cops and Oscar gets shot and killed in the club's dingy bathroom. Up to this point, the entire film has been shown from Oscar's point of view, with the back of his head in the frame (somewhat like Robert Montgomery's The Lady in the Lake, from 1947). Dead, Oscar floats up above his body and begins roaming around the city, looking at events without comment or voice. He watches his sister making love to a man before she gets the news that her brother is dead; Oscar momentarily enters the body of her lover as if to experience the incest that Noe seems so fascinated with.

Over the rest of the interminable running time, we watch as Oscar re-lives his dull life, including the death of his parents in a car crash and raising money to bring his sister to Tokyo. After he reaches the point of his death, the movie goes forward in time, over the course of years, following Linda, as well as a cast of other lowlife characters, until we reach a fairly obvious and not particularly profound conclusion.

To Noe's credit, the movie is often very moody and spooky, and it reminded me often of David Lynch's far more amazing three-hour nightmare Inland Empire (2006). But the truth is that Oscar's long story arc results in absolutely nothing; he's a pathetic punk and his death trip brings him absolutely no new knowledge or wisdom. If Noe had given him the ability to comment upon his life, or if the same idea had been applied to someone with a more interesting life, then maybe Enter the Void might have been worth something.

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