Enter the Void - TIFF 2009 Day 3

dir. Gaspar Noe

In the introduction to the final film of my Day 3, we were told that the print of Enter the Void that was shown in Cannes this year was a work-in-progress. So, according to TIFF, we were in fact the premiere showing of Gaspar Noe's newest trip. And it is a trip -- a lengthy one through time, space, mind, body and just about everything in between. Noe's created a cinematic tour-de-force of sight and sound and while it's a bit over-long and there's some trouble in the acting department, there's no escaping that the souring ambition is largely successful.

Taking place in the small apartments, clubs and streets of Tokyo, the film follows the point of view of a small time drug dealer named Oscar as he gets high, heads to complete a transaction and dies. And that's just the first half-hour. His drug buddy, Alex, had lent him his copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and they discuss the book a bit on their way to Oscar's doomed deal. Sure enough, upon Oscar's death, he begins to experience the different stages and the audience is along for the ride as Oscar goes through the life-flashing-before-you trip and as his "spirit" floats through the city keeping tabs on his friends and family.

It feels a little shaky at first, but Noe successfully manages to pull off the experience of being inside someone's head looking out. Not unlike how TV's Peep Show does. The screen blinks when the person does, we see his hands bring the pipe packed with drugs up to the bottom of the screen as the hands light it, etc. And when the stuff kicks in we get our fist look at Oscar -- young, short hair, your typical teenager or young 20 something. But we could tell most of this from the way he talks -- kind of dumb, and childlike. This works for Oscar a lot better than it works for his equally stunted sister, Linda, played by Paz de la Huerta who comes off like a less talented Juliette Lewis (yeah, I know...). Unfortunately she's in a great deal of the film but it rises above (quite literally and figuratively) and manages to become quite the transcendent experience.

The camera shots are often unbelievable. With the help of the same special effect director from The Dark Knight, miniatures, CG and reality are mixed together in a wondrous way. The camera hovers above the action looking down, floats through walls, whips around buildings and sweeps down upon cars in a dizzying fashion. With Enter the Void, Noe has delivered another film that you experience throughout your body and it's exactly what I was hoping for. It's visceral. It's brilliant and is the perfect mix of style and substance.

I gotta move forward here so I won't get into describing the amazing number of shots -- like the cervix p.o.v. money shot -- and just say that I was mighty impressed even as the film went on 20 or so minutes more than it needed to.  It was the perfect cap to an excellent full day at the fest.