Climax is the latest film from Gaspar Noé, who in the last 20 years has carved his place as one of the most audacious filmmakers in world cinema. He divides people, much like Lars Von Trier: you either love him or hate him, or you hate one film and love another, and so on. Everybody has an opinion on him, but personally I think he’s one of the few pure visual filmmakers working today, and that’s worth celebrating, even if sometimes he goes full edgelord at times.
The strange thing about Climax is it’s quite possibly his most accessible film. It’s basically a horror movie about a group of dancers who are partying after three intense days of rehearsals in an abandoned school. It’s an insanely diverse group of dancers, almost to a comical level, with every gender, gender identity, sexuality and race represented. It’s almost like Noé did this deliberately to mock Hollywood’s attempts to diversify their films in recent years… it’s like Noé is saying: you think you are diverse, look at this movie! They are drinking alcoholic punch, but it’s been mysteriously spiked with LSD. Across the film’s 90 minutes, they hook up, gossip ensues, they kill one another and they die off – but will anybody survive this descent into Dante’s Inferno?
Noé is first and foremost a visual stylist, much more than somebody who particularly cares that much about story. The stories tend to be relatively simple in his films. He loves a Steadicam shot, and after an epilogue at the start it kicks into an extraordinary long take of a dance sequence to Cerrone’s French disco hit “Supernature.” The descent into hell that the film depicts is soundtracked by basically a history of dance music, from Motown to industrial to electropop to now, which is makes it almost a musical in a sense. If you were lucky enough to see the film in the theatres (it didn’t play for very long) it’s as much of an audio experience as a visual one, the music is so pounding it’s like being in a rave more than a cinema: it’s quite the experience. His best film, Enter The Void, is similar, but it’s slightly less oppressive and has plenty of quiet moments.
I loved Climax when I saw it theatrically, and it’s left an indelible mark on me, it’s one of the two best “horror” films of the year, the other being Mandy, which is just as extreme and psychedelic. It’s a film to be experienced rather trying pick holes in it, and it’s quick enough that it hopefully won’t outstay its welcome for newbies to Noé’s work. Gasper Noé never plays it safe, and in a world where less and less “extreme” cinema is accepted by audiences and critics, he should be celebrated for being a true individual in a landscape of by-committee films in Hollywood or even in Europe. I can’t wait for whatever Noé does next, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
The disc that Arrow has put together includes commentary and an interview with Noé. Alan Jones does a breakdown of the tracks on the soundtrack, interviews with some of the cast members, a visual essay on Noé’s work and the trailer. Anton Bitel supplies the booklet, which is in the first pressing only.