Argentinian director Gaspar Noé has never backed away from tackling an awkward subject and here he attempts to address the lack of hardcore sex on the big screen. While it’s hard to ascertain what is simulated and what’s not, Love’s opening scene doesn’t leave anything to the imagination and continues in that vein thereafter… in full blown 3D.
An American in Paris, Murphy (Glusman) wakes one morning with a horrible hangover. His lover slumbers beside him and a toddler moans from another room. There’s a message on his phone from his ex’s mother, asking for help as she hasn’t heard from her daughter in two months. This sparks memories of Murphy’s passionate but destructive love affair with Elektra (Muyock) who vanished when Murphy confessed to having an affair with mutual friend Omi (Kristin), a tryst that resulted in a pregnancy and a loveless relationship.
The 3D is a lost cause, darkening scenes and faces past the point of visibility at times; it’s here for one reason only: a close up of Murphy’s penis as he ejaculates onto the lens/over the audience. And this juvenile indulgence is found in the story too: Murphy and Omi’s son is called Gaspar, another character is called Noe, and in a scene in a porno shop Murphy extols the courage of porn actors to bare all (a nod of appreciation from Noé to his own stars). Like his previous feature, 2009’s Into The Void, Noé doesn’t know what to cut and so includes everything. Ev-er-y-thing. Repetition and boredom soon trump eroticism and for an age the affair doesn’t get any deeper than great sex – “Blood, sperm and tears: this is the essence of life!” says Murphy at one point.
But then Love stumbles into a tender sequence and Noé cuts out all the short, stabbing flashbacks and settles down to chart their story proper. They meet for the first time in a park, their burgeoning relationship, and their promise to protect each other from life’s ills. It’s dreamy and melancholic with longing gazes across pillows as the afternoon sun creeps through the shutters. Noé colours in their backgrounds and explores their ambitions – she a wannabe artist, he a budding filmmaker – and it’s Murphy’s declaration to make a film about “sentimental sexuality” that underlines what Noé is after here. Then the relationship turns ugly and the love affair descends into drugs, experimentation, jealousy and hate.
However, whenever Noé explores the characters he’s hampered by a lack of talent by his admittedly game actors. It’s hard to know how Noé wants the audience to take Murphy and his plight; crying in the bath and cradling his son suggests to view him sympathetically but Murphy has little redeeming characteristics. Berating Elektra for being with other men at a swinger party he took her to while he sleeps around might be an attempt at complexity but makes him look childish. At another point he screams that she’ll never make it as an artist and isn’t shy about telling her why. He’s a nasty piece of work and this is more his story than hers.
Brave in putting the sex front and centre, swapping it for the declarations of love scenes in romantic films, Love 3D at least tries to do something different but the story and the characters just don’t engage.