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Cannes 2009: Enter The Void

Be afraid… the director of Irreversible has made something even more extreme.

Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void was greeted with cheers, boos, gasps and shocked laughs when it was screened for the first time in Cannes on Friday.

Like everything the French director does, it offers a wholly uncompromising vision – one that some will thrill to while others bolt for the exit.

Either way, it’s impossible to deny the audacity of what Noe describes as a ‘psychedelic melodrama’.

Instantly making good on the first half of that equation, the first 10 minutes comprise a kaleidoscopic lightshow to rival the ‘stargate’ sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It’s a drug trip seen through the eyes of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a small-time dealer whose perspective the film never leaves – even when he’s shot dead by police.

After he bites the bullet, Oscar’s spirit ascends above the Tokyo setting, Noe’s camera assuming a God’s-eye-view of events for the next two hours plus change.

Oscar keeps watch over stripper sister Linda (Paz De La Huerta), fulfilling a childhood promise made after the pair’s parents were killed in a car smash (shown at least three jolting times).

Narrative fades into the ether as the film becomes a sensory blitzkrieg of strobing lights, acid colours, distorted soundscapes, impossible tracking shots (into a bullet hole) and lots and lots of dirty sex.

Basically, imagine an underground nightclub in hell co-run by Dario Argento and David Lynch.

The effect is by turns woozy, soothing, unsettling, hypnotic and slightly tedious (another pass in the editing suite before general release wouldn’t hurt).

If anything breaks the spell it’s the performances; unlike Noe’s Irreversible (Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassell) or Seul Contre Tous (Philippe Nahon) there are no star turns to speak of.

Though proving herself endlessly game, De La Huerta drawls most of her lines in a spaced-out stupor; while our time with Brown is spent following the back of his head.

But this is hardly an actors’ showcase – it’s an auteur-piece through and through, designed to flaunt its creator’s pretensions, technical verve and sizeable balls.

Basterds notwithstanding, no film this Cannes has generated more chatter.