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Customer Review

344 of 379 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Violent Story of Revenge; NEVER for the Faint-Hearted, February 27, 2003
Gasper Noe's feature film "Irrersible" is destined to be a topic of hot debate when it was shown in Canne Film Festival. It is reported that during the rape scene that lasts almost 10 minutes, many viewers left the theatre. And there are people who defend it, and people who attack it, as is often the case with this kind of unusual films. However, instead of joining the debate, I would like to tell what I saw on screen as I remember, even though I was curiously attracted to the ultra-violent story of revenge.
The story, which director Noe thought of very casually, is very simple in itself. Beautiful Alex (Monica Bellucci, real-life wife to Vincent Cassel) is a fiancee of fun-loving Marcus (Vincent Cassel), but one night after a party Alex is raped by a man and moreover her face is heavily smashed by the guy to make her unconscious. Knowing that, Marcus hurries to the culprit with his friend Pierre to a bar for the most violent kind of revenge in the movie history.
Now I warn you. The rape/revenge scenes are both so intense and realistic that some of you might get sick during the course even though you happen to know that Noe used CGIs to enhance the effect of violence. But to be fair, these scenes are, I thought, overlong but nothing gratuitous. Still, it looks as if the director wallows in making us feel uncomfortable, and I admire, without any sarcasm, his skiils so good at that.
Another unusual aspect of the film is that the story goes chronologically backward. Noe insists on this idea so much that what you see first on screen is "the end credit" which rolls up (and see many names of cast, which are printed the wrong way). And you will first see the result of revenge, then revenge itself, and then the cause of the revenge ... and so on. The trip is exactly from hell to heaven, which we know is about to collapse.
And the camera, especially during the first 30 minutes, goes on rolling around so that you may feel seasickness. The rotating motion is NOT that of handy camera of "Blair Witch Project," but the fact remains that we feel very uncomfortable, and we have that subject matter. The noise-like soundtrack is also effective to make us feel uneasy -- like David Lynch's films -- and the actors are so terrifyingly convincing including the rapist Jo Prestia (professinal actor and ex-boxer).
Some audiences try to defend the film by saying that Noe is only trying to tell the truth, and if so, he clearly made his point. And I can understand that viewpoint -- we have seen an equally unsettling rape scene in one Jodie Foster film; and as for violence, Oscar winner Steven Spielberg is not a stranger to violence if you remember his WW2 film. But those films never brought the violence to the forefront as Gasper Noe did. In a sense, that is an admirable thing. But if you want to pay some money for seeing that ... well, if depends. I just happened to think so.
From the purely technical point of view, Director Noe shows his ability to create an unnerving atmosphere. The film is shot in a unique way -- using only one shot for each scene -- so, after one scene starts, it goes on till the scene changes to the next. As this now very rarely used method is employed -- though some of them are the result of post-production work, which pieced together some different takes -- each shot is consequently very long, causing us another reason for having to be patiently following the ever-moving camera, which easily beats that of Brian DePalma.
For all its techinical achievement, "Irreversible" suffers from its own methond of storytelling. Compared with the violent first half, the latter peaceful part looks inevitably much weaker. Sometimes, the back-through-time tactics create an original effect; when we see too frivolous Marcus, who ignores the presence of Alex at party, we feel sense of tragedy and folly of humans, as we know what is going to happen after that scene. The film has some unexpected moments when we think -- imagining "what if" situations which, as you know, are always very futile attempts of humans as every history tells. And of course, I know that by the combination of Alex's heaven and hell, Noe is making his own commentary about our life. The film tells us twice on screen "Time destroys everything" and, right, that's another point. But I am afraid the method is too simple and too obvious, and doesn't hold well not least after such intense violence.
Still you want to see? OK, then, here's some tips for you that might make you understand this one better, which I quote from the booklet I bought at mutiplex in Japan. 1) Noe thought of the concept of "Irreversible" in May, 2001, using Cassel and possibly Bellucci. But as she was to work for two "Matrix" films from September, he had very short time to prepare for actual shooting. 2) They shot the sequences chronologically, I mean in this case, from "heaven" to "hell." 3) You see Philippe Nahon as ex-butcher, who was in Noe's previous films. The dialgues are all ad-lib. 4) Noe had difficulties in "ending" the film (in this case, the most peaceful scene of Mercus and Alex making love). There seem to have been several versions, but he decided on the present one, which shows a poster of one masterpiece film. That film's director, now gone for some years, is famous for a film starring Malcolm McDowell, who played a role of "Alex" -- well, Noe must respect Stanley Kubrick.
As a whole, for my part, I confess I was very much impressed with the film. But because of the nature of the film, I cannot "recommend" this one to you. I wrote down what I know. That's why I give only three stars.
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Location: Kyoto, Japan

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