PFF24: Love (Gaspar Noé, BEL/FRA)

Gaspar Noé is an anomaly among his contemporaries. His sparseness of output notwithstanding, his ability to effortlessly subvert both expectation and formula through explicit means has inevitably earned him the title of provocateur in a niche all his own. In keeping with tradition, Love aggressively charts the dissolution of Murphy (Karl Glusman) and Electra’s (Aomi Muyack) relationship in the wake of the latter’s mysterious disappearance. Through a series of flashbacks we’re offered insight into their respective proclivities and just why their love hit the rocks.

Love‘s front-and-center presentation of its naturalistic sexual encounters have inevitably garnered the misnomer “pornography” from the film’s fervent detractors. This is partially due to an obvious lack of precedence, but it’s safe to say that those unfamiliar with Noé’s tendencies will be shaken to their core. Wanton provocation isn’t what this focus aims for, the film instead opting to explore all aspects of Murphy and Electra’s relationship and the strength of each. It’s made clear that – while not without their flaws – this couple has been founded on carnal as well as intellectual attraction that’s persevered and torments Murphy to this day.

The omnipresence of the amateur performers becomes a little grating based on their questionable abilities, and a rudimentary script fails to delve as deep as you’d like in terms of emotionality. Noé’s technical prowess remains Love‘s strongest attribute, employing 3D in a manner that lends itself well to the filmmaker’s exquisitely composition-driven aesthetic and a means of, er, accentuating a particular sexual climax. Singularity of presentation has been far-and-away Noé’s trademark, and Love‘s case is no exception as banality is often overshadowed by its ceaselessly unique visceral intensity.

Love is undoubtedly the most divisive film of the year in terms of content. Noé admirably refuses to steep his tendencies in anything even remotely conventional, this time examining the messiness of love throughout every aspect of a particularly toxic relationship. Murphy and Electra may not have been the perfect couple, but then again, not many are. Even though the quality of the performances and stilted interactions prevents Love from being the full package it could’ve been, it’s still elevated by an unprecedented boldness in approach that’s bolstered by Noé’s captivating sense of style.

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