Gaspar Noé's latest film was a hit at Cannes this year and was immediately labelled as ‘controversial’ which is a sure-fire way to get people to to see it. But is it really controversial or is it just French?
Love has caused a particular stir by its use of 3D - a technique usually reserved for action movies and the viewer is thrust quite literally into the middle of the action. The level of intimacy is certainly heightened - and it probably isn’t a film to watch with your parents - but it definitely gives cinéma vérité a new meaning with unchoreographed and apparently unsimulated love scenes. If this was a British or American film, there would probably be cries of pornography for about five minutes and it would fall under the radar - does any one remember 9 Songs, that sexually explicit British film from the mid 2000s? Exactly. But this film is French. Okay, so the director is Argentinian and the lead actor is American but there is an unmistakably French abandon to proceedings.
There is the initial drama of a potential suicide attempt which kickstarts the film by forcing our American hero, Murphy, to look back over his life and sexy times with his former girlfriend Electra and his current girlfriend, Omi, the mother of his son. Unbridled by the constraints of ratings - there is no way this film was ever going to be given less than the most restrictive of ratings - Noé sets his camera up and allows his actors to do what they want, which, being the pretty young things they are, is each other.
Like Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour, because the sex isn’t all that sexy, it does feel a lot more personal and voyeuristic but unlike that film, you know you are watching people having fun and not under pressure to perform. Kechiche’s film uses sex as part of his main character’s journey into finding herself, so is at times a little too over the top and graphic, but the characters in Love are meant to be in love so there is a little more tenderness and genuine affection. The only reason this should really be compared to a porno is because of the cheesy electric guitar music that plays while the twosome becomes a threesome.
Some critics have labeled Love as ‘boring’ but that is an unfair assessment. If the sex scenes had had all the bells and whistles of a porno, those same critics probably would have said the film was cheap and gratuitous. Yes, it is slightly gratuitous in parts but Noé does attempt to give his story a sense of reality, by showing not only what happens when you have sex, but also what happens before and after - people fall in love, they make mistakes, they make up, they make babies. And it’s not just about sex; there are attempts to show the different facets of love - the love between a man and a woman, between a father and son, a mother and daughter and what all those different types of love can lead to.
If anything is truly controversial about this film, it’s showing that sometimes, even young Parisian would-be bohemians have to think about the consequences of being in love. And nobody makes you think better than the French.
Love is showing for one night only, this Wednesday 18 November at FACT, with a specially filmed exclusive introduction from the director, Gaspar Noé. Click to book tickets.