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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Irreversible Review (Re-post)

Irreversible Review (Re-post)
2002, 97 minutes, Not Rated (If rated, NC-17)
by Joshua Handler

This review is part of a series of extreme, but highly recommended pieces of cinema that I believe are either essential or interesting.

Irreversible is a 2002 French film starring Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, and Albert Dupontel and directed by Gaspar Noe.  This film is told in reverse order and is about a man getting revenge on the person who raped and beat his girlfriend.  What ensues after the murder and rape is what happened before.  If you've seen Memento, this film is very similar in structure.  A fascinating fact about this film is that every scene is a single take (though this is done using a computer combining many shots together) and all of the dialogue is improvised.  Many scenes use cinema verite (AKA "shaky camera") and low frequency sound which supposedly can cause vertigo and nausea. 

Now as fascinating as the style of Irreversible is, it is still widely known as one of the most disturbing films ever made.  It provoked 200 of the 2400 people to walk out of the Cannes Film Festival screening and made three people pass out.  The film is disturbing due to an especially brutal murder scene at the beginning and a single take, stationary camera, nine-minute rape and beating sequence in the middle of the film that was very hard to watch.  Now after hearing these details, one might ask, why the hell would anyone watch this film?  The answer is because Noe uses such sensitivity and tells such a good story, that the rape and violence are not exploitation, but just the opposite.  Without giving away too much, the murder at the beginning is shown to be an act of folly later on, thus showing the awful nature of violence.  The rape scene is also justified as it is not sexualized and what follows shows the horrifying nature of it, thus not justifying the act in the least bit.  

Towards the beginning of the story (the end of the movie), everything is quiet and peaceful and I realized how sad and moved I was knowing what was in store for the characters later.  Bellucci and Cassel built such great characters that I really felt for them by the end of the film.  They accomplished this so well that I felt a subtle wave of emotion come over me at the end that I did not realize was there from a while back.

One final note, Monica Bellucci's performance is one of the bravest of all time.  Not only does she make her character real, but she endures a horrifying rape scene and achieves an eerie realism.  

Overall, this film was a thought-provoking and fascinating film that really moved me.  It was not quite as disturbing as many have said, but still was very rough.  Unless you can handle a lot in your films, do not go near this film.

-Joshua Handler

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