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climax.jpgIf cinema is indeed the stuff of dreams then where does that leave Gaspar Noe? The enfant terrible of French cinema has out done all his peers in his quest for the perfect celluloid nightmare. Lars Von Trier should take his milk and cookies and head for an early bedtime. His films seem to illicit guttural reactions from the audience. At a screening of Enter the Void I watched a fully grown man adopt something akin to the foetal position in his seat. Mary Poppins this ain’t.

Climax is Noe’s fifth film. The story is based on a supposed event in the 90’s when a dance troupe imbibed a certain amount of hallucinogenics and all hell broke loose. Noe orchestrates the action in a deserted music hall amidst a snow storm. We don’t know where this is or exactly why these dancers are brought together. There is a short section at the beginning where the dancers give docu style interviews to the camera, in which they are asked questions by the hidden choreographer. It sets up the intrigue nicely and provides a neccessary calm before the storm.

Noe has never been good with character. His dialogue? Even worse. His cast, like in all his films, is made up of pretty but vacant youngsters. They gab about sex, and then perhaps about fucking, and just to mix it up a little bit, shagging. It’s clear that the performers have been cherry picked on their dancing flair rather than acting chops, and to be fair, the dancing on show is sublime. The camera loops around and entangles itself with the dancers, capturing every flex of their bodies. It is feral and primal and absolutely exhilarating.

The culprit behind the madness is a spiked bowl of ruby red sangria. As the cups are passed around the dancers become looser and more hostile. Accusations fly about as to the deviant conjurer, and the hedonism and violence follows swiftly on its tail. All the while a character named Big Daddy, a robust DJ, plays sweltering, cacophonus dance music. It dominates every scene, this ear bleeding techno, making the audience feel like they’re immersed in a ghoulish night club. What’s more, it never lets up, meaning there is no escape.

Characters make forays away from the dancefloor; a mother locks up her young son in order to protect him, lovers convalesce in grubby bedrooms, anguish is cleansed in bathrooms. There is a startling tribute to Isabelle Adjani’s famous breakdown in Possession. A stray dancer careens against the walls, caught up in her own demonic fever. Noe plays around with base feelings and desires and torments the audience with them. Birth and death, sex and violence, love and hate, it’s all captured with grotesque abandon.

To look for a profound sense of humanity in Noe’s work is to miss the point. He is, when we strip him away to the bare bones, an outrageously talented stylist. In interviews he has declared his love for dancing, the freedom it brings, and this film is a testament to that sense of anarchy and expression. Not many films have managed to evoke the sweaty thrill of a cavernous club, but Noe takes us into the inferno with devilish authority.

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