Words

Adam Woodward

Climax – first look review

It’s party time in Gaspar Noé’s latest about a dance ensemble’s dizzying descent into hell.

A glittering tricolore hangs on the back wall of a grungy community hall where a professional dance ensemble are gathered for what is to be their final rehearsal. As a thumping house track blares out from a PA system, the dancers launch into an exhilarating five-minute routine, the camera capturing their every bump, grind and twist in a single, swirling take.

They break only for the party atmosphere to immediately be cranked up several notches. The camera keeps rolling, roving freely around the open-plan space to capture snippets of conversation by turns idle and intimate. The dancers laugh and chat and drink and dance some more. Then someone spikes the punch and the celebratory setting is suddenly transformed into a hedonistic hellscape.

Welcome to the latest Very Bad Trip from that loveable rogue Gaspar Noé. The controversy-courting Argentinean writer/director of I Stand Alone, Irrevérsible and Enter the Void was last seen swaggering along the Croisette in 2015, when his erotic 3D romp Love was presented in an out-of-competition midnight slot. Now he’s back in Cannes with, predictably enough, a bang.

Depicting humanity’s worst excesses is Noé’s forte, and he relishes putting his cast of twerking twentysomethings through the wringer here. Among the performers in this Dantean disco are a bickering lesbian couple, a single mother and her young son, an overprotective brother with incestuous inclinations and a pair of adidas-clad bros who casually brag about having “dry” anal sex with the women in their company. Picture the cast of Fame, only less wholesome and all whacked out of their minds on LSD.

And then there’s star-on-the-rise Sofia Boutella, who gives a performance that can only be described as committed. It’s a pity Noé spends so much time choreographing the immersive long takes which make up the mercifully lean runtime (when the cuts aren’t neatly concealed they’re signalled by frame-filling title cards which scream pseudo-philosophical mottos such as ‘Birth is a unique opportunity’) instead of fleshing out his characters. It’s fun to watch them all go nuts (which was presumably the only stage direction Noé gave), but hard to actually care about the grisly fate that befalls them.

All told, Climax makes for a rather dull and repetitive viewing experience, like venturing into a nightclub sober when everyone inside is already fucked.

Published 13 May 2018

Tags: Cannes Gaspar Noé Sofia Boutella

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