Prior to the release of Climax, many film critics and movie lovers alike were fairly skeptical about how Gaspar Noé’s controversial filmmaking was going to fair with a dance movie. As one of the most divisive directors of our time, it seemed as though this film could either serve as his magnum opus or as a confusing clash of counterintuitive entertainment. Strangely enough, nothing has ever made more sense.
Noé’s usual exploration of avant-garde film techniques arrive expectantly in this film. Climax is littered with the use of the ambiguous place cards and, of course, unconventional camera operatives like extended cuts, birds-eye-view shots, and fast-paced intermediary scenes.
In recent years, in particular, Noé has placed his French nationality on full display—and this film is no exception. From music choices like the legendary French House duo Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter tracks Sangria and What To Do, to the huge bedazzled French flag poised behind the stage that acts as the omnipresent eyes of Dr. Eckleburg—his allegiance to France is as apparent as ever.
Throughout the first half of the film, the dance troupe transitions from an interestingly choreographed group to a seductive, enticingly carnal satanic ritual. Agitation and confusion permeate the highly-sensory experience as sirens soar over a suite of ’90s synth strings.
The Enter The Void aesthetic is elegantly refined as star actress Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde and Fahrenheit 45) assumes the lead role with a scarily accurate portrayal of the rollercoaster ride that is an LSD trip. Boutella’s extensive range of dance styles (she was once forced to choose between performing for Michael Jackson or Madonna’s concert tours) and painstaking repertoire of inhumane body contortions makes an incredible spectacle to watch as the Sangria poison tears through her veins.
The dances are stunningly sensual, and the intensity of the group is alluring as they explore various dance styles—the most notable being a series of iconic ’90s club flairs, like krumping, breakdancing, and the Madonna-esque voguing.
The endless corridors, shadowy fluorescent lighting, and echoing drums, bass, muttering and screaming transform the lodge into a labyrinth of psychedelia and horror—a schizophrenic’s odyssey through the circles of hell.
The acid-induced trip is not too distant from the audience. In fact, Noé challenges the audience by breaking down the fourth wall and questioning the audiences’ sanity and current state of mind. The tone of the film draws the viewers in, and we are left wondering if we are watching reality or are, in fact, visualising the inner turmoil and hallucinogenic experiences of the dancers; are we watching the dancers as they experience the high, or are we in their high?
Climax is Noé at his most refined and, perhaps, most fully formed as a filmmaker. Uniquely, the movie doesn’t attain its controversy from the primary themes it explores; instead, it relies on the atmosphere and auditory and visual components, which will unsettle even the most experienced recreational-drug user.
By the time the credits roll in the still-processing audience glance confusingly at one another. A reflection of the film leads to the realisation that there was no that moment. Unlike Enter The Void’s final scene, the explosively shocking opening of Carne or the equally vulgar finale of the sequel I Stand Alone, Noé refrains from headline grabbing film moments. Rather, he resolves to a cinematic experience that is both appalling and addicting—almost as if the film has taken on the characteristics of LSD.
Climax is an uncompromising hallucinogenic experience that may give Noé a wider spread platform than ever before. His highly-articulate art vision is finally delivered on a silver platter that—while uncomfortable to swallow—is entirely digestible and leaves the audience surprisingly satisfied.
Climax is out in Perth’s selected cinema’s now.