THREE AND A HALF STARS A celebratory dance party goes wrong when someone spikes the punch.
Sofia Boutella, Alaia Alsafir
DRAMA FRENCH LANGUAGE #CLIMAX
French bad-boy Gasper Noë is nothing if not provocative. His sensational IRREVERSIBLE subverted story-telling in the best possible way by starting at the end and working toward a happy-beginning. The climatic, and truly distressing, rape scene that started the film was, as we learned, the tragic end to his story but no matter, the film ended on a romantic high note. Which is what we like, right? Thus Noë had a lot to live up to and this study of a dance troupe who loose the plot after an acid-spiked punch-party goes horribly wrong (could it ever go right?), sees the auteur at his typically provocative self.
After their final rehearsal (the French group is soon to perform in the US), the dance troupe throw themselves an impromptu party. Soon they realise that the punch is packing quite a, ahem, punch and before they can no longer focus on who laced it with acid or why, the blame-game begins. It’s one of many scenes in Noë’s episodic approach which had purpose in IRREVERSIBLE but here starts to wring out the narrative. Rather like the acid trip itself, you’re never quite sure where you’re going next, or how long it will last. Perhaps that’s the point.
And so we have a pre-party dance routine, a scene in which two tripping boof heads debate the pleasure and merit of rape, one where a woman locks her young son in a small room for his safety, another where a group attack a man they suspect of loading the punch, and so forth. There’s not a lot of love in the room as the party spins wildly and chaotically out of control, and takes us along for the ride.
On the upside, CLIMAX is a rather authentic window on a bad trip and a strong argument for never ever spiking the punch. Aside from his characteristic playfulness (the end credits are the start, the start credits are in the middle and the title appears at the end), the atmosphere is sweaty, claustrophobic; colours and sound is vivid, dislocating; the characters are strung out, unreasonable. If nothing else Noë makes a pretty clear point that, at least in this case, drugs are bad, m’kay? The problem is there may not actually be anything else to the film apart from having that (unwelcome) sense of truly ‘being there’. And there is not anywhere a sober person really wants to be.