Leave it to the Cannes Film Festival to try and raise a little controversy this year by presenting, as part of the official selection, the first 3D porn movie ever to play the festival. No wonder the crowds were so big early Thursday morning when Gaspar Noe’s Love premiered at the Grand Theatre Lumiere at 12:15 AM. And later, at the press screening today, every seat was taken a half-hour before start time.
Apparently the Cannes crowd enjoyed the uh, coming attractions for this one — so to speak. Reviews have been tepid overall for the director’s latest attempt at stirring things up here. He’s certainly done it in the past with violent, sexual and controversial entries like Irreversible (2002) and Enter The Void (2009), so he shows up on the Croisette every six years or so with something even more daring. But from critics so far, not much love for Love.
So why this time have I gotten the feeling that Love just isn’t creating the same kind of scandalous talk Noe’s films, and others working in the same kind of sector, have gotten in the past? Is it trying to do something like this in the age of the anything-goes Internet? Does nothing shock this fest anymore? Even though one critic labeled Love the director’s tamest film, it hardly is that, considering the numerous, extremely graphic sex scenes in which nothing is left to the imagination. And putting it in 3D (can Imax be far behind?) with one bodily discharge aimed directly at the audience, among other salacious scenes, didn’t even cause a ripple — at least with the jaded press.
As for Noe, he says he wasn’t just out to make a sex movie. Been there, done that. He wanted something different, and so he started toying with the 3D idea. And presenting it first in Cannes. “Being in Cannes is a lot of fun. I spent 20 hours a day shooting the film and the fact that it is in Cannes scared me, so I thought I better do six months work in one (to get it ready),” he told the Cannes news conference following the press screening. “We sold the project as a mellow pornographic film. I thought it would sell like hotcakes, but then (the producer) said to me, ‘as soon as you say pornographic, people get scared.’
“I read lots of pornographic books when I was young. But the film talks about being in love from a sexual stance. And of course to represent sex it is hard not to film the genitalia. We’ve seen Lars von Trier’s film (Nymphomaniac). There’s some things that loom larger than life. There’s all sorts of things in my film, some are real , some are fake.”
But why 3D? “There’s something childish about 3D. It’s like a game. It’s hard to beat Enter The Void in terms of filming. I thought, what’s the next game I have never played that might be fun? The idea of making a film showing these very erotic scenes didn’t excite me very duly. I have done shorts that showed that kind of thing. I thought, ‘What can I do that will amuse me? What new language can I find?’ ” he said. “The film was shot with a tiny little budget (about $3 million). We used 3D cameras. Maybe the fact that it is in 3D makes it a film that looks like it is from Hollywood. And it is in English to boot. But that’s not the case. We shot it really fast.”
There’s not much story here (do we really need one?). Noe tends to work without much of a script (seven pages here), so there was lots of improvisation — especially, it appears, in the three-way sex scenes. Some of this seems to be autobiographical, but it’s a gray area and only aspects of it reflect Noe. At any rate, he wastes no time getting to the heart (and other body parts) of the matter, opening on full frontal sexual activity practically before the Cannes Film Festival logo is off the screen.
The lead male actor in the film is in fact an American named Karl Glusman. The female leads, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin, are French, and the film was shot completely in Paris, the City of this Love. The actors said at first they had complexes regarding the nude scenes but got used to it. “The first day of shooting Gaspar decided to start us off with a close-up of my genitals. And I was in the bathroom looking in the mirror thinking I should get to the airport and run back to the United States, that this is the end of a very short career,” Glusman said. “I was very uncomfortable at first. Each camera takes three technicians and a lot of the nude scenes we shoot two cameras at once, so that’s a minimum of six people focusing on private parts…Pretty soon it felt very normal.”
Noe isn’t too worried about censorship, in fact flippantly suggesting people fly to Paris to see it if it is banned in their country. But he adds, “this film could not have been done in America. No way. That’s why we brought an American actor to make it look American.” Alchemy picked up the movie for distribution in the States, and execs there say they have absolutely no intention of presenting anything less than the vision of the filmmaker. Noe mentioned he hasn’t toned it down with the exception of one ejaculation scene that was cut (but just one). It will go out NC-17 or without a rating, but it will be interesting to see which art house bookings it gets or if it has to cross over to mainstream 3D-equipped theaters to make the gimmick work.
Meanwhile, no one is storming out of Love screenings in disgust — no one seems shocked. The bigger scandal this year was the security guards kicking women off the red carpet for not wearing heels. You gotta love this town.