Climax; Horror; 2019; Written and directed by Gaspar Noe; Starring Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic; 96 minutes.
Climax sure is a Gaspar Noe movie. Take that as you will. His films are unconventional, deeply disturbing, fuck with structure, and defy film-making expectations. Climax does all of these. The story, as it is, finds a dance troupe having a party on the last night of a dance retreat in their live-in studio. Noe shows himself to be a master of of his camera and presentation. At least half the film is presented in single takes. The first half the film sets up the characters and their work. We meet each of the dancers in recorded interviews while staring unbroken at the TV playing these interviews. It’s an odd sensation with the unbroken shot of the TV with the quick cuts on the TV itself of the characters. (VHS tapes and books encircle the TV, with titles such as Suspiria, Salo, and Zombie set up the tone of what is to follow). Then we have the first long unbroken shot, an incredibly impressive dance sequence. God damn, this is a wowing sequence. I can’t imagine the work that went into this energetic collection of quick moves, break dance, contortion, and just incredible skill. It slides directly into the start of the part. This and the following two -character shots set up the lives and dramas of the dancers. It’s only here 46 minutes in that we are slammed into the title sequence of the film, jarringly and suddenly.
The horror starts as the drugs take hold and it all falls apart of the troupe. The back half twists the controlled, measured set up of the start;the impressive flow of controlled dance and persons is now a pathetic series of dirty, sweaty, bags of ego and anger. Noe’s ever roaming, never cutting camera refuses to flinch as it rolls, pans, flips, and twists its way across the crumbling infrastructure of the group as they bicker, fight, slash, and burn. On top of that, Noe never uses any sort of establishing shot of where the hell we are at, or any real detail out of exactly what is on screen, creating a claustrophobic terror.
I loved it.
Just like the rest of Noe’s catalog (including Irreversable and Love), Climax isn’t for everyone. It’s not for anyone, really. It’s depraved, shocking, and makes me want to take a shower. All the performers are wholly game to give everything to the movie. Sofia Boutella is the name of the cast, but she’s one of an ensemble, all who gives incredibly physical psychotropic performances (They are dancers after all). The use of their bodies in both sections of the feature feel like dancers, not actors attempting to play dancers and their odd contortions bring a whole new separate level to the film.
Noe pulled off a massive feat in the two long take sequences, both in how he moved through and everyone kept the whole thing going – but in the sound design of it. We can hear off the distance the rest of the action we’ve seen in part still continuing. This insular location becomes a whole world.
If you go for fucked-up cinema (I know I do), Climax will deliver; although I do note it’s not as depraved as his other films or other “fucked up movies” club members.
I give it an A.