Words by Hallie Newton
Love is a sprawling memory film about the trials and tribulations of a beautiful young couple in Paris, and it’s almost completely comprised of full on, unsimulated sex in 3D.
While this sounds shocking to some, to fans of confrontational director Gaspar Noé, consensual sex is a walk in the park. Most famous for his brutal rape scene in Irreversible, Noé has also filmed live human births, slaughtered horses, incest, drug deals gone awry, and a Buddhist interpretation of death. Love may in fact be his most sentimental film to date. Beyond the shock of tits, cock, bush, cum shots, and drugs, rests a simple thesis about the impermanence of relationships and the enduring feeling of, well, love.
The movie begins with a naked couple on the brink simultaneous orgasm, jacking each other off with expert technique. This is Murphy and Electra, who, as the film unfolds through non-linear vignettes, we understand to be star-crossed lovers, separated forever because of an infidelity which caused a baby. Cut to the present—Murphy is an unhappy father who gets a phone call from Electra’s mother to alert him that Electra has been missing for months. The baby momma, bitter that Murphy is emotionally moved by this news, leaves the apartment for the day with child in tow. Alone, Murphy takes opium and relives the memories he shared with Electra, which range from orgies and arguments, to meeting parents and exes, to cocaine and an ayahuasca trip. Much like a real relationship, this stroll down memory lane gets a bit monotonous after the novelty of beautiful breasts bouncing around in 3D wears off. The story structure favors improvised scenes that lack the tension of a conventional screenplay, and the acting isn’t great. Throughout the film, the self-involved characters’ basically just fuck, argue, talk about themselves, get jealous, and make up. As redundant as it is to watch, the movie’s trappings make for a pretty accurate portrayal of a young love affair.
But really, no one goes to a Gaspar Noé movie for the caliber of acting, or for a stupendous narrative arc. People go to a Gaspar Noé movie to see how he and his team film a lusty, gritty, regretful world. Noé’s use of 3D technology guarantees that every ejaculation, smoke ring, and shower scene jumps off the screen, intentionally undercutting the characters’ oscillation between melancholic indulgence and hardcore fucking. This tactic smartly strips away any form of intimacy the characters try to elucidate, keeping Love as far from sappy as possible while still speaking some truth about the title. After watching so much sex, the last scene remains unpretentious and complete. This is probably the best first date movie ever made. Get your 3D glasses ready.