Sunday, March 24, 2019

Climax (2018) - Movie Review

The Movie: Climax

The Director: Gaspar Noé

The Cast: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Giselle Palmer, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schott, Sharleen Temple, Lea Vlamos, Alaia Alsafir, Kendall Mugler

The Story: French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.

The Review:
If you are familiar with Argentinian director Gaspar Noé, you probably have a strong opinion of him one way or another. If you don't know who he is, just understand that he puts some really messed up shit on film for people to contemplate, digest, and have emotional experiences with. Irreversible is probably his most well known film and one I would highly recommend if you want to go down that road. Again, his films are not for the faint of heart or for people looking for happy fairy tales.

Climax actually starts out with a super fun dance number that was an absolute joy to watch and is the type of single take, no edit film making that I love to experience. Cinematographer Benoît Debie mostly keeps the camera stationary through this entire sequence and lets the dancers tell the story and move the audience as the mid 90's house music blasts through the speakers. This epitome of joy and fun makes the rest of the movie that much more disturbing as the bonding and cohesiveness of the group shatters after they realize the bowl of sangria they have all been drinking from has been spiked with LSD.

From there, the story becomes a nightmare, especially as you remember that what you are seeing is based on an event that actually happened. Noé and Debie continue to use single take shots although in much less of a static format. They swirl the camera around, twisting and turning around characters and flipping the view upside down or moving it forward, backward and every other direction. The story and the use of camera, music, sound, and lighting all create a disturbingly horrific experience that matches what the people are going through step for step.

For me, the ending was a bit of a let down as I expected the story to end up far more violent and visceral than it ended up being although I do realize that's like saying I wish a hurricane could have been a bit more windy. The thing this movie did was make me react which of course is the point and, at first, I was mad at the movie and felt like it was a disappointing mess. Then, as the story and imagery and chaos of it sank in, I really began to appreciate and understand what it was all about.

On the surface, it's shock and awe and just another look at why drugs are bad, but as you dig deeper, you extrapolate a much more personal experience and that is why Gaspar Noé is so necessary and essential as a director. Before I forget, I also have to say that the cast is absolutely fantastic. Noé made a point to hire dancers to act in the movie instead of hiring actors and trying to teach them to dance. What they are asked to do, from the opening dance number, to the eventual drug fueled chaos, is quite astonishing and they nail every bit of it.

The Verdict:
Climax is the type of movie that you are going to love or hate or maybe you will love and hate it equally depending on how you choose to absorb it. From a film making perspective, the movie is a brilliantly crafted and disturbingly visceral work of art that will stick with you for a long time. If you're going to watch this film, please experience it in a theater. It's worth it.

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