Let’s get one thing white and semi-transparent: Gaspar Noé’s latest film Love is not for the easily-embarrassed. His previous films have examined ego-dissolving drug use and the brutality of rape, and Love very much continues in the same vein of depressive realism bolstered with an unshakeable aftertaste of possible sadism. Outwardly at least, it would appear that Noé is keen to re- establish ‘arthouse cinema’ as a euphemism for films with large helpings of flesh.
Noé himself has made it clear in interviews that he also hoped to capture the ‘real’ experience of sexual love in this film: whether such a project will ever be successful is itself debatable. In this case, Love is occasionally sexy, but also serves to remind us of how fundamentally repetitive the act of sex tends to be. The story itself is dull and unsatisfying – in no part helped by being told from Murphy’s perspective of grumbling self-pity. You see, he really loved Electra but, y’know, obviously he couldn’t not screw other women. The graphic sex is what keeps things interesting (certainly, the 3D uterus-eye-view of a penis firing semen towards the camera is worth the slog), but then there’s something invariably sleazy about a male director making a film that seems to cater so specifically to a hetero-normative and masculine idea of the erotic. For example, when Electra tells Murphy that she would like to have a threesome with him and another girl, Murphy replies: “This is my dream too”.
Said threesome soon follows in a scene which feels indebted to the notoriously lengthy love-making sequence from Blue Is The Warmest Colour – another film which courted considerable controversy over its gender politics and directorial intent. However, whilst that scene was so ludicrously frantic and long that it achieved an unusual pathos, this one manages to be a bit sexy and nothing more. It isn’t helped by the watery sub-Hendrix guitar solo that accompanies it – possibly the first true masturbatory accompaniment to the film, but doubtless not the last. Noé’s film isn’t entirely dull, and it contains occasional moments of welcome humour, but rather than glorifying the physicality and passion of love, it can only deliver a few cheap thrills.