Love 3D: NZFF Review
The most provocative title on the New Zealand International Film Festival's extensive slate actually ends up being the one that's perhaps the tamest when weighed up against expectation.
Cinema's enfant terrible Gaspar Noe (Enter the Void, Irreversible) has filed a chamber piece for the festival scene, riddled with pornography and ruminations on relationships.
It's the cautionary story of American film-maker Murray (Karl Glusman) who ends up in Paris and in a passionate relationship with Electra (Aomi Muyock) - but that's not where the story begins; it takes up on New Year's Day with Murray waking up with another girl Omi and his baby.
As he gets up, he gets a call from Electra's mother, telling him she's not heard from her daughter in a while and worrying. This sets Murray off in a spiral of memory and regret which we're party to.
Love 3D is a polarising experience, but it's actually a triumph of atmosphere over substance, of insecurities and regrets over a road less travelled.
Sure, there's plenty of love-making on show (some of it which is literally in your face thanks to the 3D element) and Noe is clearly trying to push buttons given the number of scenes and frequency in which he injects them into the admittedly slight narrative. But Noe's claimed that he's looking at what love does to people and how they experience it and that the sex is an integral part of it. No doubt some will dispute that, and there's certainly a feeling that these scenes lose any kind of perverse appeal by being so prevalent.
However, when Noe moves away from this side of things, there are parts of the narrative which work and others which don't. The reflections and ruminations on the relationship as Murray prowls his flat feeling trapped make him a difficult and selfish protagonist to care about - and certainly, his behaviour to Electra and other women reinforce that idea; is Noe commenting on the behaviour of men or Murray in particular? It's hard to tell because no commentary is forthcoming and no judgement is either. But in showing Murray with Electra, Noe does a wondrous job of collecting the fervour and fever of young love, though sadly not in enough scenes, preferring to show their indulging in carnal desires as a profession of this - again, making it difficult to really grasp onto either as perfect partners.
Ultimately, Love 3D is no Irreversible; there's maybe one singular moment when you feel like Noe's gone as far as he can in reaching his cinematic climax, but the scorn of the prior films feels softened with this latest. It's not for everyone's tastes and there are times when you wish Noe had smoothed off some of the edges and created more than just atmosphere - but perhaps we get the love story our society reflects these days.