Gaspar Noé’s study of old age is no less uncompromising or cinematically daring than his more outré previous features.
An ageing couple live in a tiny Paris apartment. They’re surrounded less by the bric-a-brac of everyday existence than the detritus of their lives. Each object would once have sparked a memory. But now that is leaving them, particularly in the old woman, and what remains is fear – if not of death itself then the unknown, and the long and painful road that leads to it. The man is writing a life’s work on cinema. His wife, by contrast, diminishes before our eyes. The visits by their son are a reminder of the gradual loss – the lessening – of her world.
The woman is played by French screen legend Françoise Lebrun, who starred in Jean Eustache’s New Wave classic The Mother and the Whore. The husband is played by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento (the original Suspiria). Both are impressive, as is Alex Lutz as the son. Noé reflects the fracturing of the characters’ psyches by splitting the screen – only the latest of the formal experiments from the director of Irreversible, Enter the Void and the Fame-on-acid shocker Climax. More than tricksy camerawork, the split screen gives us further perspective on this couple’s anguish, underpinning Noé’s unwillingness to look away from even the most painful moments of our existence.