Climax is a drug-infused, sweaty and self-indulgent nightmare. It immerses you in a single night with a bunch of unlikable dancers as bad things happen to them.
Gaspar Noé’s films are not for everyone. He has a reputation for trying to unsettle his audiences and whether you see this as brave film-making or a cop out will perhaps determine whether you are a fan or not. I was reluctant to see this one. Having been knocked for six by his ‘you can only watch it once’ Irreversible (2002), I was diverted but ultimately bored by his overly long 3D epic Love (2015), the most memorable moment being the ‘shock value’ of the 3D cum shot.
Climax seemed to be more of the same but the Festival buzz was that it was not to be missed. Uncomfortable, uncompromising – much like the Comedy Theatre, a venue I had successfully avoided all Festival. So expectations were high. Sigh.
The plot is a simple one; a group of dancers celebrate the end of something with a party in an isolated location. The film starts with a shot of a bloodied figure crawling through the snow so we suspect it won’t end well. After an intoxicating extended scene where the dancers perform as the camera swoops and dives, the party begins and the camera continues its movement, following individuals, listening in to conversations and watching as everything unravels. There is LSD in the punch you see, and the constant movement, red lights and pulsing music sketch out a hellish bacchanal in broad strokes.
Where it failed from me was the shallowness of the characters. I couldn’t really work out who was who or care what happened to them. It also seemed a decidedly male gaze that lingered on the brutalisation of women and lesbian sex in a way that seemed voyeuristic rather than inclusive.
I left feeling that Noé is a bit of a clever clogs. He would’ve been the guy in your film class full of machismo and so busy ruffling feathers that no one notices his films are ordinary. All form, no content.
Have you seen this film? Did you find more meaning in it than I did? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.