the benefit of running a blog like this, as opposed to being a writer for a website, is that there is no deadline. most of the time it’s just procrastination, but in some cases, such as enter the void, you do actually need a certain amount of time to digest, dissolve, ponder afterwards for the movie to sink in to form an opinion. most movies you can pretty much decide right afterwards how many stars you will give or which way your thumb goes, but those movies are not that interesting. enter the void is such a movie/viewing experience.
for further illustration, here’s the first two minutes/title sequence for enter the void:
enter the void is co-written and directed by gaspar noe, who also wrote and directed the rape+ultraviolent-told-backward irreversible starring persephone from the matrix
trilogy. it came out about the same time as (the slightly overrated yet not as overrated as nolan’s latter movies)memento. after enter the void, i’ve moved up irreversible on my watch list. but hey, it’s not like we have a deadline or something.
the whole 140+(or 160+ in the original version) minutes of enter the void is from first person perspective of a drug dealer in japan. it’s also shot in seemingly one-take. there are (way too many) montages of tripping scenes that feel like they belong in the background of a tool concert/music video. the plot is pretty bare for a 140/160+ minute movie. you are a drug dealer in japan who gets shot and killed by the japan police, japo(n)olice™. it seems to take place in real time, with a few incestuous flashbacks thrown in. the first 90-minutes of the movie could be summarized as the past, giving us the backstory of you the drug dealer, and your stripper sister, living in japan. the second part shows what happens after you’re dead and we get to see the lives of other characters, kind of the future i guess. it’s wings of desire for drugged ravers.
i fell asleep after the first 90 minutes(a bad sign for a movie as self-pumped-up as this) so i actually watched the movie during a 2-day period. the break is actually a pretty good self-made intermission. especially if you get the original/director’s/non-u.s. version.
the movie itself is not as frantic as the opening credit would have you believe. yes, they are mostly shaky handheld/steadicam shots and neon-lights-polloza. somehow it works in a movie about foreigners in japan(although i could see the same movie taking place in say, new york, or hong kong) and people on drugs. those on-drug trippy montages near the beginning almost seem to prepare you for the rest of the movie. the camera also go through and on top of walls, in and out of bullet wounds, aborted fetus, and possibly vaginas. the reason: you the drug dealer was killed and before that, you were on drugs and reading tibetan book of the dead, therefore your spirit travels everywhere through any time and space continuums. although i wouldn’t read too much into that, it’s nothing more than a casual/hipster reference. see, eastern religions are cool in the western world cause…it’s from far away and it’s…different. the rebirth/reincarnation stuff are merely narrative devices, however little narrative there is to be found.
i don’t want sound too harsh on the movie cause after thinking and rethinking, evaluating and reevaluating, there are quite a bit of the movie that i love, even though most of it is technical. and what techniques noe has. while i do appreciate the techniqualities, there is simply not enough story here to support a 2+ hour movie. the actors are wooden and the dialogues are pretty pedestrian(though it may be because it’s argentina-born/french speaking noe’s first english language film). it is so slow that during the second night of my viewing of the second half of the movie, i had time to wonder why i give a shit about these lowlifes, even if they are lowlifes in a foreign country. but despite it all, it’s like run lola run + lost in translation + wong kar-wai + brian de palma all got together, took xtasy, and decided to make a movie. it’s also refreshing to be so unrestricted and free that you don’t know what you might see next, despite the short(thank god) version i experienced. it’s a dilemma when you are frequently amazed at what you are watching yet at the same time, can’t wait for it to end. i’m sure that noe would take that as a compliment.
here’s the main thing: i love it whenever there’s a long steady cam/oneshot scene/sequence in films. who doesn’t love those steadicam/tracking shots in goodfellas?
and might i submit the opening of snake eyes(which redeems the whole movie), that staircase sequence in the protector, that opening in the untouchables (which doesn’t quite redeem the rest of the movie), even though i know de palma is
ripping off paying tribute/homage to battleship potemkin instead of hitchcock this time(hell, even that naked gun 33 1/3 untouchables parody is great in my book), or those 90s mike figgis experiences like time code (it’s in 4D, suck it cameron).
but all these movies have something more for your viewing experience, things like characters and plots and developments. as opposed to enter the void, which is all about the techniques, but nothing on the fronts of stories and dialogues. it’s the antithesis of your typical hollywood tentpole yet at the same time, it’s pretty much your typical hollywood weekly spectacles(amazing visuals + lame story + screenplay).
it’s also way more interesting than your standard drug movies we get like fear and loathing in las vegas(they are on drugs! hahaha! 1 / 4), blow (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz), and requiem for a dream(drugs are bad, mmmkay). as far as movies go, i think it’s more creative and interesting to be polarizing than coherence. enter the void stands on the thin line between pretentious and artistic, between tedious and creative. i can see why tarantino picked it as one of his favorite movies of 2010, since it’s about cacausians in asia with drugs. i can also see him making a better movie based on the same story, with more well-written dialogues and at a shorter length. as it stands, i respect and appreciate that it exists, but other than a court order, i’m not going to
watch experience it for a second time. but don’t let me stop you, put it on in the background for your next drug party, along with other party/background movies like michael bay films or miami vice: the movie.
enter the void the short version is available on netflix instant. the original director’s cut is on dvd and blu-ray.