(Gaspar Noé, 2015)
I wasn't really prepared for how much of a French film Love would be. A French film in the archetypal, cliched sense, I mean; it is basically an endless series of scenes of characters talking intensely about themselves and each other and their relationships, only lacking the wit or depth of Rohmer, say. Instead Love inserts (no pun intended) a bunch of explicit sex scenes, one every five or ten minutes, which don't really do anything to change the story or the characters, and don't really reflect the themes in any significant way, either.
The story shows us a day in the life of Murphy (Karl Glusman) (whose life is full of things going wrong - subtle, Gaspar!), a young American wannabe filmmaker in Paris. He has had an unplanned baby with a girl, Omi (Aomi Muyock) and feeling trapped, falls down a rabbit hole of memories of Electra (Klara Kristin), his old girlfriend, and possibly the love of his life, though those memories are decidedly mixed. Electra's mother has contacted Murphy, fearful for her suicidal daughter, and Murphy remembers a sequence of their sexual encounters and conversations and arguments as he tries to deal with her loss and his new situation.
The script is frequently terrible - Noé writes like an undergraduate - and his unprofessional cast aren't up to elevating the material. That leaves Noé himself. And thankfully, he knows exactly what he's doing. He has always had a strong visual sensibility and here his often painterly lighting and symmetrical compositions - this is a film shot with 3D in mind - make for an utterly visually distinctive experience. The sex scenes are posed and arranged with the audience in mind, removing any air of realism, however "real" they may be, but this ensures that they are regularly beautiful. Glusman spends 95% of the film dead centre of the frame, and despite the fumbled nature of the script it still feels like Noé has touched on a few universals here. There are scenes that feel true in their sordid little emotional confrontations, their petty jealousies and passionate desires, exchanges that are fuelled by real feeling and real love.
But it feels self-indulgent, as if the thing that Noé most needs at this point in his career is a producer, somebody to rein him in and tell him what is working and what is not. Otherwise he just follows his own odd muse, and the result is this odd mess of mastery and masturbation.