“It’s a nightmare!” Gaspar Noé’s latest is a typically confrontational cocktail of music and horror; a trance-like stew of contorting, krumping, waacking weirdness that drops on its audience like the bucket of blood from Carrie. It’s purportedly based on the true story of a dance troupe’s descent into drug-addled delirium, although the result looks like it was torn straight from Noé’s twisted cinematic imagination.
As always, he’s out to provoke, with gleeful teaser posters screaming: “You despised I Stand Alone, you hated Irréversible, you loathed Enter the Void, you cursed Love, now try Climax”, accompanied by an image of the Argentina-born, Paris-based director raising a glass with a demonic grin. But the element of dance brings something new to Noé’s somewhat jaded palette – a shot in the arm for his over-familiar tropes.
End - Shot - Figure - Snow - Ground
We begin at the end, with an overhead shot of a figure dressed in black, stumbling across snow, before falling to the ground – a shrieking, blood-splattered snow-angel. From here, we flash back to the beginning; a series of taped audition interviews with dancers, played on an old TV (it’s the mid-1990s) alongside which sit VHS tapes of extreme cinema favourites: Argento’s Suspiria, Pasolini’s Salò, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou – all indications of what is to come. The interviewees are a diverse group – male and female, gay and straight, black and white – and they answer questions about their life mottos, their attitudes to sexuality, and what they are prepared to do for the job (“anything!”).
These disparate players come together in a bravura dance number, played out in a school hall that serves as their rehearsal room. A glittery tricolour flag provides a backdrop to their moves, which are captured in one continuous shot as Benoît Debie’s free-floating camera moves among and over the dancers....
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