Murphy (Karl Glusman) awakens in bed with Omi (Klara Kristin) the mother of his child, but she doesn’t know the depressed thoughts that are running through his mind. He is nursing a splitting headache from the night before, it being New Year's Day, but when he checks his phone he is given cause to feel even worse when he hears a voicemail from the mother of an old flame of his, Electra (Aomi Muyock). The message says her mother is contacting everyone Electra ever knew because she has disappeared for some months now, and her parents are worried sick, but the fact is Murphy hasn't seen his ex for a long time. However, this sparks off a whole fresh slew of regretful thinking: he should have been with Electra, the love of his life...
Gaspar Noé was at this stage in his career eschewing the violence that made his films so distinctive in their early stages and embracing explicit sex instead. This was not to everyone's taste, as the violence had not been either, but at least the bloodshed would have brought in horror fans who preferred the darker side of life on their screens, whereas the rumpy-pumpy depicted in Enter the Void and Love placed his work in a particular ghetto designed for arthouse dramas that went explicit with what their characters got up to between the sheets. Except if they had been between the sheets, we wouldn't have seen what they were participating in, therefore all the lovemaking took place in full view of the cameras.
The director would have doubtless argued he was showing the intercourse to underline what the powerful attraction was between the people populating his love story, but the fact remained they all but utterly overwhelmed the actual plot, given the moment you've seen a bunch of actors going at it with gusto it obliterated any thoughts of how well they were performing when called upon to act, rather than shag. And these actors were obviously not hired for their thespian skills, but rather their willingness to bare all and go as far as they did for the public's view, which meant you weren't really watching a proper romantic narrative, you were more or less watching pornography, whether intentionally on Noé's part or otherwise.
The history of love scenes in the movies had always been dogged by rumours that the stars were genuinely doing the deed, even though they pretty much were not, they were acting and hired to act, so Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider didn't in Last Tango in Paris and Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger didn't in Nine and a Half Weeks and so forth, but come the approach of the millennium, certain filmmakers decided to include a scene or two of real intimacy, or as intimate as sex could get with a camera crew present. Before long we had had the likes of Nine Songs and Shortbus being projected in legitimate cinemas rather than gentlemen's exclusive theatres, and although it wasn’t exactly an epidemic, there remained some envelope pushers interested in experimentation with the audience's tolerance.
Chloë Sevigny was probably the highest profile star to participate in such a sequence (with Vincent Gallo in The Brown Bunny) but she hadn't started a discernible trend, meaning the actors you would see in the explicit dramas would be unknowns, and there lies a problem with Love. Whether it be Noé struggling to express himself in the English language or simply the cast being unconvincing when they were not getting on with the sexual scenes, you would be hard pressed to stay interested in anything Murphy and his array of partners got up to, leaving an impression of romance that had you wondering if the film was intended to be this cynical or if it was a mistake in translation from the creator's wishes to the screen. Whichever, you left deeply sceptical that after the protagonist's self-destructive behaviour, coupled with everyone else's unthinking mistreatment of their lovers, proved anything other than they brought this dejection on themselves. There was something curiously conservative in the illustration of the hopelessness of the subject, and it didn't half start to drag in the second hour.