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CANNES 2018 Directors' Fortnight

Review: Climax

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- CANNES 2018: Gaspar Noé, at the peak of his skills in nightmarish immersion, offers us a film in which a dance troupe is taken hostage by a very bad trip

Review: Climax

Climax [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the new film by Gaspar Noé, is indeed a brilliant paroxysm, and seems to have found the perfect audience at Cannes Film Festival (after competing for the Palme d'Or with Irréversible in 2002 and Enter the Void [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
in 2009). At the Directors' Fortnight we find this "wild" film in the spirit of May ’68, simultaneously seeking out "originality" and aiming to "ignite a fire" (just like the opening sequence before each film designed for its 50th anniversary edition).

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In Climax, Noé perfectly captures the unique art that has made him a cult filmmaker, ridding himself of some of his more potentially alienating habits (including a certain complacency when dosing out his favourite cinematic ingredients) in order to deliver us a glorified and masterfully-executed film in terms of its screenplay, mise-en-scène, captivating panache of camera movements and play on scene length. In just over an hour and a half, Noé demonstrates that there is no need to resort to 3D and VR to give the viewer a real immersive experience, turning them into a thrilled and revived film lover.

After telling us that the story is based on events that occurred in the 90s – with the text appearing on a beautiful white background stained with blood, before being abruptly interrupted by a painful cry, the aftermath of what we’re about to see, which has the double advantage of increasing both our curiosity and apprehension (exacerbated by the break in tone which follows) – Noé focuses on a series of events, kicking off by introducing us to a series of characters (a diverse modern dance troupe preparing for a show) by means of some more or less existential interviews that scroll across a television screen surrounded by VHS tapes and books. A fantastic dance scene follows, in which Noé splashes a colour palette onto the screen that is very reminiscent of the era (and in which we watch people dancing alone and in response to the gestures of others), after which the troupe allows itself an evening off, filled with more free-wheeling dance moves, a formidable soundtrack, and two or three-person conversations, which are perfectly choreographed and allow us to get to know each character better, and for them to gauge their romantic options for the evening. And then suddenly, everything changes: someone put something in the punch! One by one, our dancers are caught in an infernal fog of sensations and hallucinations that we experience with them, in a glowing nocturnal ambiance to which only the director has the secret recipe. 

Noé can afford to drop a few things here and there, such as large letters on the screen and witty sayings about life and death, because he never takes himself too seriously (right from the get-go and the opening credits announcing that Arte financed the film, which are torn down bluntly, mid-sentence) and knows how to combine humour with feverish terror, beads of sweat and a labyrinthine nightmare, which tightens like a vice as the film unfolds endlessly. We’ll leave the rest to Noé, because only his film can do the story justice.

International sales of Climax, "a French film and proud to be" – which is in fact a Franco-Belgian co-production (produced by Rectangle Productions, co-produced by Arte France Cinéma, Wild Bunch, Les Cinémas de la Zon and Artemis Productions) – are being handled by Wild Bunch.

(Translated from French)

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