Climax: Review by @Kush_Hayes
This is a movie about a Music Video Dance rehearsal gone horribly awry when someone spikes the punch with LSD.
Im giving this a positive review, with the asterisk of that I cannot recommend it to the average theater goer, nor would I recommend it to some of my friends into edgy foreign cinema.
Despite not being familiar with Gaspar Noé I recognized immediately from the trailer of Climax that I would be in store for something “Different”. Then I came across some posters for the movie that teases the audience that this director himself, is a provocateur whose previous body of work has been tagged with adverbs such as “Hated”, “Despised”, “Loathed” and even “Cursed”. This movie evoked none of these emotions in me, however when the lights came up at the movies final 95 minute mark, the audience sat in silence only to chuckle when I casually stated “That was some crazy shit.”.
I think Mr Noé Would also appreciate my theater experience in making his movie “weirder” for lack of a better word, and due to a tech conference the week prior, some of the projectors were off on their normal aspect ratio, causing us to sit through the opening of the movie, four times before we got to sit through the screening properly once.
As mentioned in the beginning, this is a simple story about a dance squad, rehearsing to be in a music video in 1996. But that is not the first visuals we are given in this movie. We start with a woman, covered in blood, trying to make her way through the snow, ultimately collapsing. Some text explaining that this is a true story from 1996. I sure hope that isnt true. And then we get the ending credits. This is the first five minutes of our movie and from what I read, how Mr Noé opens all his movies.
Once we get to the “Beginning” of the movie, we are introduced to more characters than a Marvel Comics movie. Its difficult to keep track of who is who regardless of what language this is presented in. However we will get expanded time learning their characters, after an amazing choreographed dance scene that is the rehearsal of the fictitious music video that not only is one continuous shot, but keeps going once rehearsal has wrapped and the celebration begins. Mr Noé takes his steadicam and just wanders around the long but narrow space our characters are just interacting in. Its because of this scene that goes on for 15 mins that the dizziness begins to kick in, this is before we find out the punch has been spiked. Its a fantastic use of the steady cam navigating the space. We then get to learn about our characters in about 20 or more small cut scenes of them just talking, talking about the others, painting a picture of who is who and who they are to the ones talking about them.
From there we find out the punch has been spiked, and our cast goes from groovy to hostile in the blink of an eye. As you can imagine, they do not appreciate finding out theyve been dosed. The Blame of “Who Did It” moves around quickly and one man is ejected from the building into the blizzard outside. Another woman who declares shes pregnant is immediately assaulted, another womans 7 year old son was exposed to the punch and instead of just staying with him in his room, decides to lock him up in the Electric Room. The insanity goes further from there including, self mutilation, incest, someone sets themselves on fire, group assault. And Im not sure, but I think someone broke his own neck. This is all going on again with a steadicam shot, and sometimes youre privileged to see one story, only then to move to another story down the hall.
Its when we get to the point that someone has set themselves on fire, Mr Noé decides to turn his steadicam upside down and film the final 15 minutes of his movie at this angle. Its at this point that the crazy has been turned up to 100 and with the emergency red lighting, the way the dancers are contorting their body creates a creepy and horrific mood. And thats being surrounded by people murdering each other or unapologetically having sex with each other.
A lot of this movie reminded me of two disturbing scenes from two equally disturbing movies. Jacobs Ladder, and Event Horizon. One is a Sci Fi, the other a Thriller, like Climax, these all depict scenes that are just horrible to imagine, unlike Climax though those scenes are only hallucinations. Climaxs randomness of what you see and when you see it increases the disturbing and not just in what people are capible of, but most likely what they are already doing.
One of two things happened:
1) Gaspar Noé is either a surgical director who has his movie so fine tuned and has his mostly amateur cast moving and flowing freely yet keeping the narrative simple and tight so you understand what is happening despite being dropped into most conflicts midway.
2) Not impossible, Gaspar Noé dosed his cast of dancers, dosed himself and then turned on the camera to see what would happen in 95 minutes.
Since I read that most scenes took 10 or more takes to get perfect, Im guessing its option #1.
This movie is crazy, it is disturbing, it is hard to watch at times because of the camera angle, but for what it is, its an amazing effort. It is such an achievement that my criticism of Headline star Sofia Boutella almost went unwritten. She is fantastic when she is on screen and then at some point she rescues herself from the film by locking herself in room.
Most of this movie is improvised. 95% of it is in French. The films opening credits take place at the 45 minute mark. I cant recommend you see this, but I can say I want to see it again just to see “who” was “where” during “scene x” & “scene y”, if even possible.
Four out of Six Blueberries.