I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to maybe watch one thing for every five things I add, but now my library is full and I have to make room. Serious watching must begin. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking about you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but don’t have time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know if there’s something that’s been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for your queue and the next Monday for mine and so forth. Let’s do this.
What’s the movie? Irreversible (2002)
What’s it rated? Unrated for everything awful in this world such as anal rape, violence, anal violence, excessive hate, The Rectum, 38 uses of the words “fist” and “me” in the same sentence, death by fire extinguisher and some no-no drugs.
Did people make it? Written and Directed by Gaspar Noé. Starring Monica Belluci, Vincent Cassell, Albert Dupontel and Jo Prestia.
What’s it like in one sentence? Memento meets the worst dream I ever had that wasn’t about skinless Linda Hunt crawling up my leg with a knife in her teeth.
What’s it about in one paragraph? It’s about love and revenge and hate and retribution and inhumanity. It’s about context and how, without it, our opinions don’t amount to shit. It begins with Vincent Cassel getting wheeled out of a gay s&m club called The Rectum with a broken arm and a friend of his (played by Albert Dupontel) taken out in handcuffs as the cops talk about how he’ll probably get 10 years in prison. The rest of the film shows you how they got to that point by working it’s way backwards one scene at a time. There are thirteen scenes in Irreversible and each one takes place right before the previous one. I don’t want to talk about the plot too much, as it would be much better to go into this one prepared for the horrible shit you’re about to see but without the whole plot in your head.
Play or remove from my queue? I mean, play it but you might not like yourself or me for telling you to after the first 15 minutes of the film. Irreversible is a masterpiece filled with performances that are so in the moment that it never feels like you’re watching a film, at all. It feels like you’re catching glimpses of three lives at a turning point where their entire future will be decided, but instead of feeling a thrill of voyeurism, it’s horror you feel. It’s as if you aren’t supposed to be there and if you’re noticed you might get molested by the characters or, at the very least, be forced to go back inside The Rectum. That…came out weird.
Right after Brotherhood of the Wolf came out, I went on a bit of a Monica Belluci kick and started renting everything I could with her in it. Irreversible was probably the third or fourth movie in her filmography that I got to. 15 minutes in I realized I was in waaaay over my head and should get out while I could, but something about the way the camera felt untethered to any sort of filmmaking conventions I’d ever seen kept me watching. The dizzying descent into, ahem, the bowels of The Rectum is one of the most horrifyingly intense yet simultaneously exhilarating things I’d ever seen in my life. The place is reminiscent of the Marquis de Sade’s wet dreams filtered through the eyes of a cenobite.
Marcus (Cassel) and Pierre (Dupontel) tear through The Rectum (I won’t get tired of doing this) looking for someone known as le Tenia (the Tapeworm). Once they find the man they think is him, a fight breaks out and Marcus gets his arm graphically broken. Just as the man is about to rape Marcus on the floor of The Rectum (the French in this movie are pretty rape-happy) Pierre saves him by bashing the (supposed) Tapeworm in the head and face with a fire extinguisher until all that’s left is a pile of bloody sludge. The camera never cuts away during the murder and it feels like it savors every single blow to the man’s head and makes you complicit in the act. I wonder what Michael Haneke would have to say about this film.
When I finished watching the movie all those years ago, I was disgusted. My chest and stomach felt icy, as if the warmth I normally had stored in myself had died away and I was left a shell of the person I was 93 minutes earlier. I felt like I watched a snuff film followed by a hidden camera video of some poor woman getting ass raped in a tunnel. Watching it again this time, I was still disturbed and left unsettled but I was able to see the point of the violence and degradation. The film takes on the reverse chronology not just to be unconventional, but to show the devastation that hate brings by showing you the results before the reasons. It’s a brilliant tactic to show the audience so much ugliness before giving them a glimmer of hope at the end.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Indeed I do. Most of the shots in this movie last well over five minutes and so resetting was extremely time consuming. Several minutes into the party scene, someone asks Vincent Cassel’s character (Marcus) what his name is and Cassel says “Vincent”. He smiles when he realizes what he did and says “Just kidding, it’s Marcus” so they didn’t have to reset the shot again and it ended up in the final film.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Mesrine: Part 1 &2 (I can’t agree or disagree since I haven’t seen them yet but they are in my queue), A Prophet (why?), Army of Crime (never even heard of this), and Micmacs (it’s French…).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Enter the Void, Funny Games, Baise-Moi, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and Zombieland.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.9
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.3
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? I recommend the film highly, but you have to know yourself before you watch it. If you’re squeamish or easily offended by graphic violence, sex and rape then you might want to avoid this one. It’s very hard to watch but, ultimately, rewarding just to marvel at the technical brilliance of Noé on display. You have never seen a camera move like his does. You should see how he gets it all up in the Rectum. I am finished now.
Did you watch anything else this week? I watched Ong Bak 3 from my queue and it managed to be the most boring martial arts movie I’ve ever seen. I also saw Source Code and Sucker Punch in the theatre. The former was really good marred by going on about three minutes after it should have ended and the latter was 50% fun, inconsequential escapism and the other 50% was just close-ups of Emily Browning’s face. And fuck them for covering The Chemical Brothers AND The Pixies.
Next week? It’s my turn to pick from my queue, but I’m having trouble deciding. It’s between Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Dogtooth, Arena and The Killing. Help me decide in the comments.