ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Climax (2018) dir: Gaspar Noé Blu Ray & DVD (Arrow)
Who spiked the sangria?
A French dance troupe holds an all-night party before heading to perform in America. They dance, the DJ plays an eclectic set, they consume plentiful sangria and they discuss whom they would like to have sex with. Unfortunately, they discover too late that someone has laced the aforementioned sangria with LSD. The night turns from joy to an orgy of sex, madness plus shocking moments of physical and psychological violence.
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A dread-inducing depiction of human deterioration
Gaspar Noé’s latest film is one which quite unashamedly wears its influences on its sleeve, some of which are blatantly referenced in an early sequence focussing on a monitor with shelves to either side: to the left, various books and to the right, various film videocassettes. Two lengthy one-take sequences were inspired by Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria (2015). Noé has also gone on record as describing the film to be like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in reverse. At the same time, however, it’s a singularly distinctive and personal work.
The first and, by far, the shortest sequence is seen right at the start as we get an overhead drone shot of a young woman seemingly making a snow angel. However, the fact that she is screaming her lungs out and visibly staining the snow with red blood makes it clear that something is amiss. Following this subtly disturbing image, the first half of the film is playful and semi-comedic as it introduces us to its roster of (mostly) young adult characters. We first meet them via a series of video interviews. We then cut to the first long-take sequence as they cut loose at a dance rehearsal cum party. The camera restlessly whirls around them, taking in the sense of excitement as they interact with each other and help themselves to a table laden with nibbles and sangria bowls. After this audacious ten-minute scene, the film cuts through a long series of two-shot vignettes featuring the characters discussing sexuality, various sex acts and whom amongst the group they would have sex with. We then get another lengthy series of shots, this time from overhead, of each of them dancing with increasingly wild abandon.
By this point, we have reached the halfway mark. The gaudy opening credits roll introducing the cast, main crew members and the various music artists who are played as a diegetic score by the party’s nominal DJ, Daddy (who is played by the real-life French DJ Kiddy Smile). The LSD kicks in and the characters erupt into an escalating cycle of pure insanity which is recorded in an even longer and more audacious take. This time, the atmosphere is not one of breathless excitement but one of pure terror, complete with a side order of Lord of the Flies-style humanity at its ugliest. The lighting turns to an infernal red and a relentless background of off-camera screaming exudes a nightmarish air of foreboding. Indeed, the dread over what might be happening outside of what is seen via the prowling camerawork ends up being far more disturbing than the stuff which we do get to see (not that the latter is tame by any means, being that it includes urination, self-mutilation, group sex and more).
The film’s depiction of the manner of which, under certain conditions, humanity can deteriorate to its most primal of behaviours is difficult to stomach but, paradoxically, even harder to look away from. In other words, it is the film that Darren Aronofsky’s overrated and self-important Mother! really wanted to be.
Runtime: 95 mins
Dir: Gaspar Noé
Script: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Giselle Palmer, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schott
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
As you would expect considering that the film was recently shot on digital format, the visuals and soundtrack are very crisp and clean looking.
- The extras supplied here include the following:
- Audio commentary with writer-director Gaspar Noé
- An Antidote to the Void – a brand new interview with Gaspar Noé
- Performing Climax – newly-produced featurette comprising interviews with actors Kiddy Smile, Romain Guillermic and Souhelia Yacoub
- Disco Infernal: The Sounds of Climax – Alan Jones, author of Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco and Discomania, offers up a track-by-track appreciation of the Climax soundtrack
- Shaman of the Screen: The Films of Gaspar Noé – a brand new video essay by writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas looking as Gaspar Noé's evolution as a filmmaker
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel alongside the original press kit
Climax isn’t easy viewing but it is compelling. Well worth a look if you appreciate the extremist and confrontational end of the cinematic spectrum.