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  Irreversible
Year: 2002
Director: Gaspar Noé
Stars: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia, Philippe Nahon, Stéphane Drouot, Jean-Louis Costes, Mourad Khima
Genre: Drama, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 5 votes)
Review: In a seedy hotel room, Jean Chevalier (the chef from Seul Contre Tous) explains to his companion that he ended up in jail for sleeping with his daughter, and goes on to declare "There are no crimes, only deeds". As a police siren wails in the street below, Gaspar Noé's Irreversible begins its savage backwards crawl from death at the 'end' to the promise of new life at the 'beginning'.

Pierre (Albert Dupontel) and Marcus (Vincent Cassel) are about to be arrested for murder as two people with horrendous facial injuries (one dead, one alive)are carried from two separate locations on stretchers. As the story regresses, we witness two of the most sickening, stomach-churning scenes we're ever likely to clap eyes on; the first is a revenge attack for a rape we have yet to see, while the second concerns the hideous sexual assault on Marcus' girlfriend Alex (Monica Bellucci). Here, Noe rubs our faces in the real blood-soaked streets of our cities: a world away from the almost glamourised nonsense that frequently masquerades as The Cinema Of Telling-It-How-It-Is. The last third of Irreversible has, curiously, attracted criticism, inferring that Noé's backwards narrative simply doesn't work, even allowing for the fact that this is the only way such a disturbing tale can have a 'happy ending'; doubtless a grim and certainly less-than playfull nod to other sub-standard cases on file. Perhaps those short-sighted detractors should steel themselves for a second viewing, where they may well discover that Noe really has progressed since his last feature film. In this final act, Noé skilfully depicts the calm before the storm, using characters' premonitions (Alex's subway dream, Marcus' 'dead' arm) to create a distance between two lovers and also to demonstrate how sometimes seemingly mundane decisions can deliver us into hell.

Of course, the main talking points have inevitably centered on those two highly controversial scenes. When Marcus and Pierre arrive at a gay S&M dive known as 'Club Rectum', a hyperactive camera follows their frenzied search for the man who raped Alex, only slowing down to unflinchingly record a very long minute where a man's face is literally destroyed by a fire extinguisher. Alex's lengthy rape ordeal is even worse as vicious pimp La Tenier buggers her, though it's interesting to note that at the screening I attended, audience reaction only became vocal when the sexual assault ended and La Tenier moved on to further acts of violence: broken mind vs broken body? So, has Noé gone too far with the violent content in this film? I'd have to say yes, but despite my misgivings over what I consider to be some almost unwatchable footage, I will defend his work against the hysterical press reaction, led by the usual suspects we all know and hate. Irreversible is often unbearable viewing, but this challenging slice of cinema should most certainly be seen by every adult: all those reports you can read and view in the media..... well, this is what really happens and it's way past time someone raised the bar and opened our eyes. Full credit to Noé for doing exactly that, while demonstrating a prowess for self-advancement from second-string shock-jock to a director of real substance.

Kiss goodbye to all the sanitised crap that's spruced up and censored. This is the real world, and by christ, it hurts! Wake up. Your alarm has some new batteries.

[Tartan Video have recently released a Collector's Edition of the movie. Featuring a worthwhile commentary by Gaspar Noé, Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel; Intoxication (a short film by Gaspar Noé; 'Le Rectum' special effects featurette; 'Stress' and 'Outrage' - two music videos by Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter along with the usual teaser trailers.]
Reviewer: Steve Langton

 

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