Love is a sad, sophomoric tale of two people of questionable maturity and deep passion which they are happy to share over and over again on screen. The camera doesn’t shy away from showing you everything.
So, why, you may well ask would I even bother to rate or recommend this as a movie to see? Because despite the bad script, the tale is in the editing and composition. This film is the child of Betrayal and the canon of Peter Greenaway. Each shot is a painting. Each moment divided from time, coming back together eventually to tell its story. In some of the shots, gravity is even made to seem to fail through the use of angle and perspective. Honestly, moments were breathtaking. And the first and last frames speak volumes, though different people will see different tales in the pairing.
Writer/director Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void) exerts extreme control over the screen and segments. He lingers where he wants, provocatively at times, but he never wavers. There is a purpose, though it will not resonate for everyone. Yes, I do have to keep stressing that. It is halfway through the movie before you even understand why you are seeing life the way you are through the main character. And even that pivotal moment, while interesting in concept, is not played very well. Karl Glusman (Neon Demon) in the lead is just leaden. His lack of credibility deadens the story overall, keeping you from ever connecting with him emotionally, even if you understand him logically. Emotional connection with the audience aside, it has to be noted that the actors are utterly brave and uninhibited even if I was never able to feel empathy for them. I was left only able to recognize the base truths in the characters from real life.
But it works.
Love captures the idiocy, joy, and pain of extreme passion left unbridled by youthful perspective. It is both fantasy and reality. It is a sad cry for what might have been for any of us and a recrimination for anyone not paying attention to where they are now. It is raw emotion splashed on the canvas and in your face. Almost literally at times. It pushes to the edge of the absurd and then grounds it by breaking the scenes into visual beats with black frames to divide the changes.
This is so definitely not a film for everyone. It is full of explicit sex but it isn’t really pornographic. Each moment has something to add to the story. When you see what is happening on screen, you are seeing the story, not the act. The reason for the scenes is explained about three-quarters through the tale; a reason separate from the way the tale is told. But Love does lack the humor of, say, Short Bus. And in some ways it has a bit less humanity for that lack. But while Short Bus is very much a sex-positive story, I’m not sure I can say Love is sex-positive. It is more sex-is-a-part-of-a-life and we can’t turn away from it and still understand people’s motivations and the plot of the film.
Noé clearly has great understanding of his craft and exacting vision of his goals. What he needs is better actors (or to take more time directing them) and a stronger script to help sell the visual experience, which is surprising and superlative. His choice of music was often incredibly sharp as well, both commenting to us and on the moment while it supports the action.
Embrace Love, if you dare. But don’t go there lightly.