The Bayley Film Club: Gaspar Noe

Never in the history of our Film Club, and we are after all at our 19th director, have we ever disagreed so much. Gaspar Noe brought hot arguments into our peaceful lockdown life. Thus, I officially grant him the tittle of most controversial film director of the Bayley Film Club. The title is purely honorary.

I Stand Alone

Author: AED
Anticipation: 2
Enjoyment: 0
Retrospect: 3
Score: 5

“I Stand Alone” can be divided into 3 sections, all of which orbit around the main character, the Butcher, who is given no other name. 

In the first part we get a crash course on what perceives the events of the film itself and we start following the Butcher around. Quickly it’s becoming obvious that he is extremely cynical and unhappy. In fact, next to his mind, the morgue seems like the most cheerful of places.

The second part is initiated by Butcher’s losing his control and hitting his wife. The abuse forces him to run, to get away from potential consequences, which in his view undoubtedly would be more the effect of his wife’s victim act, rather than his brutal punches of her pregnant belly.  Before leaving the apartment, the Butcher acquires a gun from his mother-in-law. After getting to Paris, he is trying to find a job or someone who would be able to help him. Growing more bitter with every refusal and quickly running out of money, he starts behaving more like a trapped animal. 

The third and final part. The Butcher pays a visit to his only daughter (towards whom he has some unhealthy, sexually-loaded feelings), he picks her up from an institution where she is staying. “I want to show her the Eiffel Tower” he says to the patron. Soon after, we see a fair warning from the director that the following scenes can be very disturbing and we have 30 seconds to leave the cinema. I won’t tell you what happens after those 30 seconds, but if you like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, it will be ruined for you after seeing it.  

Even excluding the last and most disturbing part of “I Stand Alone”, the film is still very depressing and gloomy. The way society is pictured in it and the hopelessness of the main character, reminded me of some of the Houellebecq’s books. Maybe it is a French thing. To me, “I Stand Alone” isn’t about loneliness or depression, it is rather about mental sickness which at the same time floods with horrible logic. The father-daughter relationship is wicked and made me sick. Overall, “I Stand Alone” upset me massively and watching it didn’t give me any enjoyment whatsoever.

I Stand Alone

Author: AED
Anticipation: 2
Enjoyment: 3
Retrospect: 3:
Score: 8

If you have seen “I Stand Alone” prior to “Irreversible” you will recognise The Butcher in the first scene. His appearance seems to have only one purpose and that is of stating: “Time destroys everything”.

The timeline of “Irreversible” is an interesting proposition from Gaspar Noe, as we watch chapters in reversed order leading to the culmination scene of the whole film – the brutal sexual assault of Alex (Monica Bellucci). Followed by chapters of before and after the fatal night, dominated by smooth colours and ease of the young people’s attitude towards life, the director creates a cushion for our jangled nerves.

“Irreversible” is a distressing film, that releases a variety of powerful emotions towards its characters. What bothers me personally though is the statement that “Time destroys everything”. If we look at it from a universe’s point of view, then it is hard to object. After all, we are not more than stardust if the events of colliding galaxies or supernovas. Did Gaspar Noe thought as big? Or was he trying to say that traumatic events as murder or rape will fade with time, become nothing more than unpleasant memory? That after experiencing it, a person should be capable of simply pulling themselves together, without much trouble, because life goes on – I leave that for you to judge.

I Stand Alone 

Author: NAT
Anticipation: 4
Enjoyment: 4
Retrospect: 4
Score: 12

Released in 1998, “I Stand Alone (“Seul contre tous” (“Alone against all”)) is Gaspar Noe’s first full length feature. In a pre-amble to the uncomfortable main event, a tipsy interlocutor gives his interpretation morality and justice.  Morality, he slurs, is defined by ‘the rich’. For justice,  the gun is the equalizer.  

I stand alone picks up where “Carne” left off. Nevertheless, we’re treated to a quick review of the bleak history in the life of ‘The Butcher’ anyway.  

We find The Butcher at year 50, in the early 1980’s. After serving a stretch for stabbing a man in the face, The Butcher is forced to sell his shop to a Muslim and his daughter is sent to a mental institution.  

Following the decline of the French horse meat industry, he has little chance of finding employment in his chosen profession, so he takes up work as a barman. He starts a relationship with the landlady and gets her pregnant. They sell up and move in with her mother in law. The Butcher becomes more emasculated as the days go by.

Many comparisons have been made with “Taxi Driver”. Much like in the way that Travis Pickle provides his conscious narration throughout, so too does The Butcher – just with far, far more malice.

The more his mental health deteriorates, the more diabolical his language and intentions become. Ultimately, he wants justice for being dealt a bad hand. He decides that this will be achieved by killing those who he thinks have contributed towards it.

Set in the backdrop of the early 1980’s, with support for La Pen on the rise, and traditional employment opportunities and heavy industry on the decline, it is within this context that the audience ‘could’ put aside The Butchers clear lack of charm, and display some sympathy with his situation. However, for most, even moderate support is difficult to fathom, when he punches his pregnant partner in the stomach and finally succumb to lingering feelings for his mute daughter.

Noe typically shocks for the sake of it – he has admitted as much – but this horror / documentary style film truly asks the audience to consider the limits at which a person’s behavior can be considered to be a result of the pitfalls of economic and social policy. This is certainly an oversimplification, and I wouldn’t imagine everyone would want to play this game – particularly women – however,  whilst undoubtable a difficult watch, “I Stand Alone” is absolutely relevant in the current climate.

Irreversible

Author: NAT
Anticipation: 3
Enjoyment: 3
Retrospect: 4
Score: 10

The infamy of “Irreversible” is primarily based on what is surely one of the most brutal sexual assaults in a feature film. However, I felt the twitchy, sweaty atmosphere immediately  – we have a brief catch up with ‘The Butcher’, and then enter ‘The Rectum’, a gay fetish club, where Noe’s disorientating camera work, twinned with nauseating sound effects has the feeling of a decent into hell. You could have turned away at this point, but unfortunately the worst was yet to come.

We know that Garpar Noe aims to shock and often for the sake of it, so it’s no surprise that “Irreversible” doesn’t hold back. However, aside from the outrage, “Irreversible” is a great mystery drama, with a story line that is undoubtedly exhilarating. Furthermore, the realism of the main characters, portrayed by Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel’s keep the film grounded, despite a few troubling scenes. 

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