CHRONIC – THE EDGE OF DEATH

ChronicDirector: Michel Franco
Original Title: Chronic
Country of Production: Mexico, France

Endurance and persistence are the principal characteristics of Tim Roth’s chronically depressed character. He is stuck in a motion of caring for those close to death supposedly in order to feel closer to life himself. He breathes their air and consumes it for his own good. It is the paradox of life and death and good lord do we stroke them both.

If there are two more things deeply haunting about this film, it’s the first and last image. An opening sequence precedes the films title card ‘Chronic’, after which appears the skeletal structure of an anorexic lady being washed under the shower by Roth. The shot lingers, frozen to its framing, as is the method of Franco’s use of the camera, and we soon feel the strength of every droplet of water as it carries a piece of life away with it. This will not be the first time that we witness the waking of death; instead every image throughout the film will be stained with its remnants. Ironically, the last image appears as a flash, the paradoxical metaphor is complete and the unexpected becomes a reflection of the expected. In other words, a twist occurs in the way that it should: as a surprise routed in thematic significance.

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Trying to articulate an order in which to explain one’s experience viewing this film is difficult to come by. The spectator may experience boredom, anxiety, hunger, anger, weakness, sickness, sadness, and even hopefulness, the latter not being an adjective of focus for Franco yet nevertheless still given its moments. It is a case of going so far in one direction that it becomes impossible not to taste a little of the opposite. As humans we feel great sadness, but the cliché here is that we know we must feel alive to experience such feelings, and because of this sadness we are psychologically able to experience great happiness. It is the sprinkles of salt and pepper mixed into the overwhelming curry.

Roth’s character moves from patient to patient and becomes more and more dependent on those who he cares for, while they equally and more necessarily return the favour. From mental health 101 to old age and cancer, there is no escaping the demise that carries this film and fuels its unbearable nature. This is all attributed to the performances that uncover certain mysteries surrounding death and seek to hide nothing by way of concealment. The true evidence is that which Franco’s camera penetrates: the observation of human emotion, fragility and expiry. The method of filmmaking is restricted, no close-ups, no music that doesn’t appear within the world of the picture (diegetic), no cutting ahead of time, no wild camera tracks, the picture appears quite simply as is. It is a remarkable way to tell stories and makes me wonder why we ever felt the need to tell them differently.

5/5

International sales by Wild Bunch. UK Premiere TBA.

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LOVE – GASPAR NOÉ

LOVEDirector: Gaspar Noé
Original Title: Love
Country of Production: France

The first thing to note about this film is its 3D format. I hate 3D. However, I am biased towards my distaste due to 3D’s primary association with blockbuster spectacles, but after witnessing a burning love story on the 3D plane, I can only succumb to complete fascination.

A love story for Gaspar Noé is a story of overflowing passions, plenty of sex and affinities of addiction. It is also a story about Noé, filled with his philosophies on life and the special ingredient of love – love is clearly the meaning behind many of life’s prospects. Not to mention, for a bit of riotous dramatic irony, the newly born baby of Murphy carefully named Gaspar and the ex-lover of Electra also named Noé, the owner of a famed art gallery.

The film plays like a masterclass in the thought of its auteur. Electra replies to Murphy’s question, “what is the meaning of life?” with the simple answer, “love”. The film is a treatise of love and perhaps a nostalgic love that not all of us are familiar with. Love is different in every circumstance, an attribute that makes love the complex sensation that it seeks to be. Love is the foundation of our desires and heartaches as emotional human beings; no one learns these lessons harder than the character of Murphy.

There is rarely a brighter side to the films of Noé. His films swelter under a lantern of scorched memories, split grief and sunken yearnings of the human soul. On this dark side is arguably where we can find life’s most beautiful moments, at least that is what Noé’s Love attempts to achieve. Watching this film you may cry and lust over the images before being held in a state of far-reaching intoxication, unsure of all predispositions in the mediation of the cinematic image. Those magical moments of first love and the first night with a new partner are overwhelmed by the futilities of life’s needs and complications. The expression is bountiful and sticks to one like the pain of an ingrown ulcer.

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The first criticism of this film will be without fail the sexual content. This is unfortunate, as previously articulated, the film is far more than a sexual meeting. Why is the sex important? Sex is natural and so very natural to any loving encounter. Noé clearly sees no reason not to indulge in the fantasies of a young couple, in what is an honest attempt at the intricacies of the sexual relationship amidst the hunger of love. These scenes can be explicit on the eye, but they are without doubt the most thoughtfully and breathtakingly crafted sex scenes I have ever had the pleasure to face.

Murphy himself is an aspiring film director and has his own philosophy on the medium that he wishes to share with Electra. Why has no one made a film of partners in love having explicit sex? Of course, the twofold irony of this is such that we are witness to Murphy’s own desires through Murphy himself. He also believes that blood, sperm and tears formulate the essence of life and can’t understand why movies don’t reflect this. These facets of the human certainly stand true to many manifestations, notably the tears pair with one’s outward suffering, the sperm with an essential private pleasure, and the blood as the component fuelling the interior toxins of life. We can expect an explosion of such fluids pumping across Love.

When a film has such a strong vision and an abundance of things to say, it is challenging to confine the art to a film review. It is no wonder the critics have had to dismiss the film as some form of talky soft porn; they won’t find the time to invest the thought that the film deserves. It’s as if the film spreads like a book and reads like Nietzsche or Kafka, perhaps Noé should write a novel or thesis on love instead. Yet, such lines are insults, the written word cannot reveal every frame a painting and expose moving actions stapled with the intelligence of a provocateur.

On a final note, do not be dispositional to images of a natural cause. There is no gratuitous violence in this film. Is the sex gratuitous? One could argue that sex cannot be so; it is a different category to violence and should be accepted as justified for a story that focuses on the trials of young love. Either way, I like to consider any well-dressed image that creates a memorable or thought-provoking experience as a worthwhile one. Our lives are made up of these memorable experiences; our memories stipulate what makes up a large part of our reality. This is where cinema excels again at proving to be such a powerful medium.

5/5

International sales by Wild Bunch. UK Premiere TBA by Artificial Eye distribution.