His latest pretentious opus is called “Love,” although there’s very little of that on display. The film is less concerned with the feeling itself and more focused on the physical act. The advertising for the film has really honed in on the “NSFW,” edgy angle, and the entire selling point of the movie is sex. In 3D!
If that sounds more like a gimmick than anything artful, that’s because it absolutely is. It’s incredibly strange to see hardcore sex on the big screen, especially in the third dimension, but what’s the point? If the film surrounding these moments is entirely hollow, these scenes become superfluous and don’t really add anything to the narrative.
There’s not much of a narrative to begin with. The film throws you right in the thick of it, as the opening scene features a couple in bed mutually pleasuring one another. To completion. The camera is stationary as the act goes on and on until its logical climax. No camera tricks, edits, or awkward angles. Just sex, right in front of your nose.
This scene is revealed to be a dream, and we learn that Murphy (an American man in France) still has serious feelings for his ex-girlfriend Electra, the woman from the dream.
In reality, Murphy is currently dating a woman named Omi, and they have a baby together. Murphy’s stream-of-consciousness narration plays over the visuals, so there are no secrets between him and the audience.
Murphy’s internal monologue doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He is only with Omi because they have a child together (that was conceived accidentally, of course) and he doesn’t have a better option.
The biggest problem with “Love” is that its protagonist is, in a word, insufferable. Murphy is young, dumb, and full of false wisdom. He’s an aspiring filmmaker, and we know this because he has posters for “Birth of a Nation” and “Salo” in his apartment and won’t shut up about how inspiring he finds “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Murphy feels very much like a conduit for Gaspar himself, as the writer/director can’t help but repeatedly inject his own autobiographical catharsis into the film. When Murphy and Omi are discussing baby names, Murphy wants to name him Gaspar. Later, the name Noe also comes into play. The audience I saw it with laughed uproariously (at it, not with it) both times. This is actually quite fitting, as I tend to find the director’s work to be just as dense and intolerable as his protagonist.
There’s a case to be made that Murphy being a total moron is the entire point — we’ve all been young and naive — but Gaspar plays him entirely straight.
In most movies, when a character drones on and on about his unfounded ambitions, the filmmakers are in on the gag. This guy’s a joke, look at him making an arse of himself!
I thought maybe I was having trouble separating the character of Murphy from Gaspar himself at first. Any doubt I had fell away when Murphy literally explained the concept of the very movie we are watching. He talks about wanting to make a movie that focuses on love, but told raw, via hardcore sex. Give me a break, Gaspar!
The sex scenes themselves, which are really the focal point according to every piece of press material, get the job done. There’s an extended threesome sequence that is undeniably alluring, and Gaspar shoots it in such a way that it never gets boring.
The problem is we never really care about Murphy or the women he beds, so there’s no real emotional connection to be had. No matter how raw or real the sex scene is, if we don’t care about the characters, it’s all for naught.
The 3D gimmick is amusing for a while, but it doesn’t take long for it to lose its lustre. By the time Gaspar literally cuts to an erect penis ejaculating on the audience, it’s clear the film’s use of 3D is focused more on amusement than immersion.
“Love” is a pretty awful title for the film, as nothing on display here can or should be construed as love. There’s sex, bickering, hopelessness, and ignorance, but never love. Maybe one of those words would have worked better.
Watch the trailer (don’t worry, no nudity or actual sex):
“Love” opens in limited release Friday, October 30.
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