Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun

Grimly powerful and powerfully grim, Vortex is the story of a longtime married French couple on the final lap of the track. Elle and Lui, Gaspar Noé’s film calls them, Her and Him, universalising the particularity of what happens to the characters played by Françoise Lebrun and Dario Argento, a first lead role in front of the camera for the 80-ish-year-old director. It’s appropriate that Argento is known for horror because in its own domestic downbeat beat way this is a horror film, the sort of one we’ll all one day get to take a leading role, if we’re “lucky” enough to get that far. As in the recent Lux Aeterna, Noë does … Read more

Lux Aeterna

Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Gaspar Noé’s Lux Aeterna (or Lvx Æterna in its original Latin-script form) is a short film about the shit women have to put up. Like the old ironic joke about the light at the end of a tunnel probably being an oncoming train, Noé’s “eternal light” (the translation of lux aeterna) is probably being emitted from the fire built to burn problematical women as witches. The first image is from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (made in 1943, but with looks from 1443) and is a remarkable shot of a woman being placed on top of a ladder, from where she’s dropped down at speed into a massive fire. The actress, Noé’s … Read more

La Bouche de Jean-Pierre

Mimi and Jean-Pierre

La Bouche de Jean-Pierre (sometimes known as Mimi) was the first film Lucile Hadžihalilović directed and in its short 52 minutes’ running time it introduces the theme she’d more fully explore in later films – the arduous, abusive, coercive, manipulative way that human beings are tamed, trained, civilised, call it what you like. The work of the philosopher Michel Foucault, in particular Discipline and Punish – which deals with social control – seems to lurk in the background of all of Hadžihalilović’s films, all of which are extraordinary, often in a quiet and unassuming way. In this one the action opens with a woman taking an overdose, witnessed by her daughter, Mimi, who ends up … Read more

Enter the Void

Paz de la Huerta poledances in Enter the Void

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 8 July Matthew Perry arrives in Edo Bay, 1853 On this day in 1853, Commodore Matthew C Perry’s four-ship squadron arrived in Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay today). Japan’s policy towards foreigners was one of total isolation, and had been since 1633 – the penalty for foreigners entering Japan, or Japanese leaving, was death. Perry was determined to open Japan up to US trade, and threatened the Japanese with bombardment to make his point. To demonstrate the superiority of US fire power, he fired on buildings in the harbour, then retreated. In the interim the Japanese fortified their garrison and quickly tried … Read more