Thanks to Irreversible, the notoriously graphic film that stirred up Cannes and Sundance audiences a few years ago, Gaspar Noé is already well known as a pusher of buttons and a churner of stomachs. His latest, Enter the Void, is certainly not a departure from that, but it is quite a bit more palatable, not to mention more thematically mature. From a technical standpoint, it is a marvel. From every other standpoint, it is totally jacked up. But I mean that in a good way. I think.
Noé revels in trying the viewer's patience, and Enter the Void commences its assault in the opening credits, which are set to pounding techno music and bright flashing lights, and sped up so fast they're impossible to read. It's Noé's little joke, rushing hilariously through the credits in order to leave more time for the film itself ... which is 161 minutes long and is frequently, shall we say, unhurried.
The story is about a young American man named Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) who lives in Tokyo and spends his time taking drugs. (He is able to support this habit by also selling them.) His sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), works at a sex club. Orphaned as young children, Oscar and Linda have had to stick together, finding surrogates to fill the emotional and other needs normally filled by parents. Oscar and Linda have a lot of issues.
Oscar's issues are complicated slightly by his death. This occurs early in the film and is foreshadowed by a conversation with a friend, Alex (Cyril Roy), about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. But death is not the end for Oscar. His spirit -- or soul, or consciousness, or ghost -- rises from his body and floats over the rest of the film, drifting from place to place, an omniscient observer of the aftermath of his death.