Vortex

****

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Vortex
"Haunting, involving and quietly devastating." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Even such enfant terribles as Gaspar Noé have to confront the fact that life (and death) is catching up with them. Noé in such films as Climax, Irreversible, Enter The Void and Stand Alone has always pushed audiences and subjects to extremes - and not always to good or lasting effect.

Here in his sixth feature we are offered another facet to Noé as he examines old age, and the perils of Alzheimer’s all stemming, we are given to understand, from personal motifs.

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He is wonderfully served by his two main actors Dario Argento (the Italian horror master) and French actress Françoise Lebrun whose younger self is about to be seen all over again in the restored version of Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore in Cannes Classics.

The ageing couple who are nameless, live in a sprawling Parisian apartment surrounded by memorabilia of other times including film posters and books. The Argento character, who has a heart condition, is working on a script while his wife spends much of the time looking into the middle distance as the condition takes its hold.

Using split-screen techniques effortlessly and naturally Noé observes them intimately and from afar as they go about their daily lives which from some perspectives looks positively idyllic and loving as they connect and then fall part in the chaos of trying to cope with themselves and each other.

Noé himself has drawn comparisons with Michael Haneke’s Amour (with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) on a similar trajectory and to be sure there are striking similarities.

Although the main focus is on the couple that much under-estimated French actor Alex Lutz (seen impressively in Guy) appears as the couple’s son, coping with his own demons of drugs, but still managing to bring some semblance of order to his parents’ lives.

Noé has delivered a moving essay on a subject that many would prefer to shun. It’s haunting, involving and quietly devastating. It may be unlike anything the director has done previously but if you look close enough the similarities are there. It could open up a whole new career path for this unconventional and consistently surprising provocateur of a director.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2022
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Drama focused on a handful of dark days in the lives of an elderly couple in Paris.

Director: Gaspar Noé

Writer: Gaspar Noé

Starring: Dario Argento, Alex Lutz, Françoise Lebrun

Year: 2021

Runtime: 135 minutes

Country: France, Belgium, Monaco


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