A life-affirming picture... about rape?

Preview by Jack Foley

FRENCH cinema continues to tip-toe the fine line between good and bad taste with another flick featuring rape, violence and revenge.

Irréversible, directed by Gaspar Noé, caused a stir when it was shown at Cannes, forcing many viewers to walk out in disgust, or because they merely could not stomach its subject matter. It will be shown as part of the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival, before being released in the UK sometime next year.

One of its biggest talking points is a 10-minute, no-holds barred rape sequence involving Monica Bellucci (of Malena and Brotherhood of the Wolf fame), which provides the catalyst for the remainder of proceedings, as her friend and ex-husband (Vincent Cassel) decide to take justice into their own hands.

The sequence (and the movie) has been compared with the likes of Sam Peckinpah (who flirted with the censors for exploring similar subject matter in Straw Dogs), and Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange); yet whether it will be regarded as highly in years to come remains to be seen (Straw Dogs, incidentally, is to get a DVD release later this year; thus fuelling the censorship debate even further).

Irréversible, however, could just as easily be regarded in the same way as Baise-Moi, another French flick that has had Daily Mail readers squirming these past 12 months - it was financed by the same company, Studio Canal offshoot, The Wild Bunch.

The rape itself takes place three quarters of an hour into the movie and was shot six times over the course of two days. Its director Noé, who has previously helmed Sodomites (1998) and Seul contre tous (1998) (I Stand Alone), remains unrepentent for its content.

In a recent Guardian interview, he reveals that 'because the subject of the movie was a rape, I said it has to be as powerful as it can be, to be disgusting enough, to be useful'. He feels that 'if you do a movie with a rape and don't show it, you hide the point... the thing is that if you show it in a disgusting way, you help people to avoid that kind of situation. Like in Clockwork Orange, when they show images of terror to Malcolm McDowell to stop him doing those kind of things, it is useful that it is shown'.

However, whilst he recognises the Kubrick similarities and tips his hat to the revenge movies of Peckinpah, he maintains that he has achieved something with Irréversible that the Wild Bunch director failed to do... make a 'life-affirming' picture. He says: "You have at the end of the movie a scene that represents something that happened before the drama - a great moment that can never be reproduced again. In that sense, it's life-affirming," he argues.

Whether this is the pretentious assumption of yet another 'arty' French director, or the truth, audiences will be able to judge for themselves next year - or by nabbing a plane ticket to Edinburgh. Indielondon will deliver its verdict in due course...


Critics who saw it at Cannes were divided on the quality of the film. JoBlo's Movie Emporium concluded: "In the end, I thought the story, some of the creative style utilized, the actors, the method by which it was told and the overall message was enough to consider it a success on some very fucked up level.... One thing is for sure, you will likely never forget this movie. Just remember that everything you do in life, every word, every action, every day...affects the next, and ultimately: nothing is irreversible."

Hollywood Reporter wrote: "While Noe's premise that 'time destroys everything' seems to be a weak rationalization for the picture's audacious raison d'etre, its ability to incite strong personal reactions is undeniable'.

While Boxoffice magazine did not hold back, stating that 'Irréversible director Gaspar Noe's much anticipated follow-up to his 1998 Cannes award winner, 'I Stand Alone', is a repulsive, masturbatory exercise, whose only achievement is its heroic ratio of style over story... It [the movie] is a painfully thin, uninvolving story'.

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