Friday, May 29, 2009

Cannes News

I’ve been following a bunch of news out of Cannes, and despite both films’ mixed receptions, I’m still very excited to see Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, and particularly Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void.

Because he took so long between Jackie Brown and Kill Bill, I think people had time to iconicize his first films, and build them up to such a level that no new movie could match them. I think Kill Bill is such a joyous rush of a film, and even a lesser work like Death Proof is full of great moments. He creates unique worlds with his movies, and is one of the few filmmakers where I feel like he’s focused on appreciating every moment of the movie, rather than just telling the story.

Because TV has become such a better means of delivering a longform narrative, cinema has to redefine its place, and do something that even the best TV shows can’t, and that’s make every single moment of the film something interesting. Does Basterds do that? I’ve got no idea, but I’m excited to find out.

But, I’m more excited for Noe’s Enter the Void. I think Noe is one of the two most significant filmmakers since the French New Wave. The other is Terence Malick, who took the de-centralized narrative of 50s art cinema and amplified the emotional engagement through incredibly sensual cinematography and voiceover. Malick’s style was elaborated on by Wong Kar-Wai, and though their films feel similar to each other, they’re totally unlike anyone else’s out there.

Noe certainly draws influences from previous filmmakers, Kubrick in particular, but his films are more radical than pretty much anything in Kubrick’s filmography, the ending of 2001 excepted. Kubrick was obviously a brilliant filmmaker, but Noe, in Irreversible, and it sounds like in Enter the Void, pushes the medium in more radical directions. The thing I love about Irreversible is the way that everything in the film is designed to make you feel the emotions that the characters experience. The spiraling camera and incessant score are all there to put you in a state of mind. The film itself is a drug trip, designed to alter your state of consciousness.

I read reviews where people criticize the narrative or call the film self indulgent, and those are perhaps valid criticisms, but I think they miss the point that, for me at least, a film that is as radical as something like Irreversible is always going to be preferable to a “solid” film that doesn’t try that hard. It’s not easy to innovate like Noe did in that film, but if you’re going to invest the time and money needed to make a movie, at least have something new in mind stylistically.

I want an experience from a movie. I want to be challenged and think in a different way. And, not enough films try to do that. So, even if Enter the Void is a failure, I commend Noe for creating a film where even just reading about it is more exciting than a lot of movies you see. I hope it plays here sometime soon, the New York Film Festival in October is probably the best hope.