The choice of Noé’s Love for the opening night of the Sydney Underground Film Festival was understandable; the provocative French director’s latest offering promised an innovative take on sexual intimacy and the way it is depicted on the big screen. There’s sex. It’s in 3D. It’s real and unstimulated. The girls get wet and the boy cums on our faces.
It’s a semi-autobiographical film that claims to depict, in the words of the protagonist, Murphy (Karl Glusman), “sentimental sexuality.” Whilst it is no doubt beautiful, initially arousing and intimate, Noé’s depiction of sex is far from underground. Instead, the audience is privy to a predictable male self-destructive fantasy, repackaged with seductive cinematography into a glossy two hour American Apparel advertisement. This Byronic heroism is to the detriment of every single female character, and the titillating sex scenes soon serve a morality tale that punishes women for their transgressions with sex and drugs.
Aomi Muyock plays Electra, Murphy’s girlfriend, who we are introduced to through Murphy’s self-pitying opiate- induced memories of a relationship he
ruined. She is positioned as the dark- haired whore, an escape from his current life with the young blonde Omi (Klara Kristin), the mother of his unwanted child and, in his eyes, part of the reason for his unhappiness. The women are costumed to embody predictable pornographic archetypes; Electra is the naughty student in thigh high socks and gimmicky glasses whilst Omi is the perky girl-next door decked out in yellow cardigans and cut off denim.
What’s interesting amongst all of this is the way in which the sex scenes are not shot through Murphy’s point of view. Instead, both his and Electra’s bodies are positioned equally for their own pleasure and that of the audience through observational aerial shots and neon lighting. However, Noé’s omnipresence in the film, via a cameo as Electra’s ex- boyfriend and Murphy’s instance that his son be named Gaspar, is a constant reminder that this expensive 3D fuckfest is all about him. This is something we couldn’t help but resent when we realised we were sitting there in flimsy plastic glasses to allow Noé to direct a jerk-off scene in which globs of 3D cum fly at our faces.