Gaspar Noé has crafted a filmography of extremes, from moments of brutal violence to swirling, kaleidoscopic imagery that veers towards the hallucinogenic. He’s shown brutal rapes, face smashing violence and hardcore pornographic imagery (in 3D no less!), all using a palate that’s usually garish and oversaturated.
Yet underneath the bombast are storylines that are eminently humane, driven by specific impulses fundamental to our species in ways we sometimes sublimate. Beneath the pounding images and blasting soundtracks are characters that live and breathe, make decisions often appalling but always understandable given their circumstances, desires or fetishes. Noé’s gift is to make a work that feels ridiculous, a smattering of nonsense that feels at first no more deep than a roller coaster, only to find once one has entered his world a profundity that belies the outward ludicrousness.
Climax, with its prurient title and simple narrative about a party gone wrong, echoes these competing facets of Noé’s work. It starts out as a faux documentary, a kind of madcap Chorus Line with the actors speaking to camera and illuminated on a TV set (framed by junk and cult favourite home videos), speaking of how they got into this world. We’re then treated to a positively orgiastic dance sequence, full of swirling camera moves, voluminous vogueing with flailing limbs, all to invite us into a near infernal party.
From there things get weirder, of course, yet in some ways get simpler, while the effects of the gathering begin to turn into an intoxicated bacchanal. It’s underneath the caucophony we witness moments of fear, of humour, of kindness, all played out within this supremely Noéian tableau.
As a bleakly comic look at this mayhem, Climax proves once again that the provocations of Noé can continue to confound and exhilarate in equal measure.