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3.4 out of 5 stars
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on July 29, 2003
This movie had me on the edge of my seat, I could hardly watch it! The rape scene is horrific, as is the death scene, but that's why this movie is good. A rape and death scene SHOULD be horrific and unwatchable! Hollywood makes these subjects entertaining, not horrific. The only reason I didn't give this movie five stars is because the dialogue is absolutely atrocious in parts. Just horrible. But the first twenty minutes is filled with such terror and energy, with the camera swooping up and down, it's enough be cause nausea. Watch Irreversible with the lights out, the surround sound on loud, and your hands on the edge of your seats. It's loud, twisted, horrific, and unapologetic about it! Monica Bellucci does an incredible job, and she is not outdone by the technical aspects of the film, which is basically made up of scenes that were done in one take. Be prepared for an intense film!
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on June 28, 2004
If there's one thing that can be stated with utmost certainty, it is that "Irreversible," a French film by writer/director Gaspar Noe, is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. In fact, this tale of the brutal rape of a helpless young woman is one of the most harrowing films ever made and features two of the most graphic scenes ever committed to film: the rape itself and the killing of the man responsible for the rape.
Although I imagine that very few people will end up subjecting themselves to this film in the long run, those who do will witness an amazing piece of work in many ways. Like the movie "Betrayal" from 1983, "Irreversible" tells its story in reverse chronological order. It begins with a frenzied man racing through a gay sex club, madly searching for someone we know merely as Le Tenia. Only as the story develops - as we are taken ever further back in time - do we begin to understand what is going on: that this young man, Marcus, is seeking vengeance on the rapist who has brutally attacked his pregnant girlfriend. Noe keeps us in a state of confusion by filming the scene in such a way as to reflect the maniacal state of Marcus' revenge-obsessed mind. The camera bounces around in epileptic confusion while the audience attempts to get its bearings. Eventually, as the filmmakers backtrack to reveal the events that have led up to this moment, the camera calms down and we get to see the whole ugly story acted out in painfully graphic detail. In fact, in the rape scene itself, Noe reverses his filmmaking style 180 degrees, deliberately leaving the camera stationary and focused on the event as it plays itself out. He simply won't allow us to stop looking.
There are some, I imagine, who might object to this film on moral grounds, feeling that it is little more than a cynical exploitation picture with artistic pretensions. Yet that condemnation would do a disservice to the makers of this film who, I believe, do not want us to revel in the sordidness of what we see, but rather to be appalled by the unspeakably brutal way in which human beings can treat their fellow human beings. By having us sit and witness every moment of this brutality without the comforting filter of cutaway shots or easy dissolves, Noe forces us to face the ugly truths about ourselves as a species. The reverse-order structure of the film heightens the tragic nature of the story for it allows us to see just how happy and hopeful these characters are in the time right before the rape shatters their lives. The latter half of the film contains no physical violence, yet watching it unfold is an ineffably sad experience, for we, unlike the characters themselves, are privy to the Sword of Damocles so precariously poised over their unsuspecting heads, yet find ourselves helpless in being able to rescue them from the inevitable destruction it will cause. Thus, the structure robs us of even the remotest option of hoping against hope that the tragedy can somehow be avoided - for we have seen it as an already completed action. For while the film may be "reversible," life itself is not. In the case of this film, at least, form does, indeed, become content.
Vincent Cassel as Marcus, Monica Bellucci as his girlfriend, Alex, and Albert Dupontel as their mutual friend, Pierre, all deliver excellent, heartfelt performances.
I doubt that many people will have the intestinal fortitude to make it through large segments of this film, but those who do will surely never forget what they've seen.
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on June 21, 2003
Finally!!! a REAL FILM!!!!!!!!.....
I'm so tired of wasting 2 hours of my life seeing worhtless, so-called films that I can't believe anyone would fund (usually millions of dollars for) such nonsense.
In this film you will see the true meaning of the human condition.
The style of the film is pure brilliance. The acting is thrilling ...its sheer perfection.
Warning: the first scene, is horrifying, (with shockingly, explicit violence) but continue watching, it is well worth the ride.
Don't just see it! Its a must have!
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on September 6, 2003
"Irreversible," the new film from French director Gaspar Noe, is a crude revenge fantasy dressed up as an art-house film. As the movie begins with the ending credits, it tells its sordid story in reverse a la "Memento," and the camera jitters during each scene so nervously, you'll be reaching for your Dramamine within just minutes. Its hero, Marcus (Vincent Cassell), seeks to avenge the savage rape of his girlfriend Alex (the attractive Monica Bellucci), and in so doing, he begins a violent journey that leads him into a sleazy gay club called, of all things, the Rectum. "Irreversible" has quickly gotten a reputation for being one of the most visually graphic movies ever made. Having seen this movie, I can testify that its reputation is well earned. One scene involves a man getting beaten (literally) to a pulp with a fire extinguisher; the beating is so relentless that it's impossible not to squirm even once. But the more unsettling scene involves the nine minute rape of Alex, which has to be the most horrific depiction of violence I've ever witnessed on a screen. While many people reportedly bolted out of theatres during this scene, I saw the whole thing in its entirety. (Then again, your stomach may be not as strong, so think hard before you see this movie.) It's a long and agonizing sequence that leaves almost nothing to imagination, and it's at this point where most people stop watching "Irreversible." But while Noe is a talented stylist with the camera, the script has flaws. Prior to her rape, Alex is not only dressed in a skin-tight dress but also approaches a poorly-lit subway station after dark. I find it hard to believe that most women in the 21st century would use such incredibly poor judgment. Also, the film's subplot involving the club carelessly aligns homosexuality with sleazy behaviour. "Irreversible" is certainly intriguing, but it's pretty tough for me to recommend as a purchase. Who would buy this DVD? Considering its nasty content, this isn't a movie you'll want to watch multiple times. You won't be scanning back and forth to certain chapters to re-watch "favorite" scenes. But if you've got the iron stomach for an ugly thriller done with interesting camerawork, then "Irreversible" might be worth a look--provided you'll be able to keep both eyes open.
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on May 19, 2004
If I were to rate this movie based on how it made me feel, then I would have given it one star instead of 4 stars, but that would not be fair to the director & actors. The movie achieves what was intended by the director, which really challenged my senses. The rape scene left me numb & stunned. I understand why many people got up and left the theater during that 10-min scene because it's so realistic & brutal unlike anything I've seen before. The movie left me so unsatisfied, which I think is why many viewers gave this a low rating because a high rating might sound like they enjoyed watching the movie. I wanted the satisfaction of seeing revenge on the rapist, but instead the wrong man was brutally murdered and the man (Alex's ex-boy friend) was going to spend yrs in prison as a result of it. I kept hoping for someone to walk through the underpass and disrupted the rape but that did not happen. After the rape, I felt sick watching the woman dragging herself away and held my breath for the rapist to let her go. Instead he brutalized her in a way as shocking & sickening as during the rape. As much as we don't want to acknowlege it, the sickening acts portrayed in this movie do happen in real life. Also, how many times in real life have we seen a trivial decision (such as the woman's decision to leave the party early by herself) led to some event that turned one's life totally upside down? I give 5 stars to the superb acting throughout the movie (esp the rape scene). I felt like those people weren't acting at all. I do agree w/ other viewers that the rotating camera angle during the 1st 30 minutes is just way overdone & totally unnecessary (which is why 4 instead of 5 stars).
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on May 16, 2004
Gasper Noe's feature film "Irrersible" is destined to be a topic of hot debate when it was shown in Canne Film Festival. It is reported that during the rape scene that lasts almost 10 minutes, many viewers left the theatre. And there are people who defend it, and people who attack it, as is often the case with this kind of unusual films. However, instead of joining the debate, I would like to tell what I saw on screen as I remember, even though I was curiously attracted to the ultra-violent story of revenge.
The story, which director Noe thought of very casually, is very simple in itself. Beautiful Alex (Monica Bellucci, real-life wife to Vincent Cassel) is a fiancee of fun-loving Marcus (Vincent Cassel), but one night after a party Alex is raped by a man and moreover her face is heavily smashed by the guy to make her unconscious. Knowing that, Marcus hurries to the culprit with his friend Pierre to a bar for the most violent kind of revenge in the movie history.
Now I warn you. The rape/revenge scenes are both so intense and realistic that some of you might get sick during the course even though you happen to know that Noe used CGIs to enhance the effect of violence. But to be fair, these scenes are, I thought, overlong but nothing gratuitous. Still, it looks as if the director wallows in making us feel uncomfortable, and I admire, without any sarcasm, his skiils so good at that.
Another unusual aspect of the film is that the story goes chronologically backward. Noe insists on this idea so much that what you see first on screen is "the end credit" which rolls up (and see many names of cast, which are printed the wrong way). And you will first see the result of revenge, then revenge itself, and then the cause of the revenge ... and so on. The trip is exactly from hell to heaven, which we know is about to collapse.
And the camera, especially during the first 30 minutes, goes on rolling around so that you may feel seasickness. The rotating motion is NOT that of handy camera of "Blair Witch Project," but the fact remains that we feel very uncomfortable, and we have that subject matter. The noise-like soundtrack is also effective to make us feel uneasy -- like David Lynch's films -- and the actors are so terrifyingly convincing including the rapist Jo Prestia (professinal actor and ex-boxer).
Some audiences try to defend the film by saying that Noe is only trying to tell the truth, and if so, he clearly made his point. And I can understand that viewpoint -- we have seen an equally unsettling rape scene in one Jodie Foster film; and as for violence, Oscar winner Steven Spielberg is not a stranger to violence if you remember his WW2 film. But those films never brought the violence to the forefront as Gasper Noe did. In a sense, that is an admirable thing. But if you want to pay some money for seeing that ... well, if depends. I just happened to think so.
From the purely technical point of view, Director Noe shows his ability to create an unnerving atmosphere. The film is shot in a unique way -- using only one shot for each scene -- so, after one scene starts, it goes on till the scene changes to the next. As this now very rarely used method is employed -- though some of them are the result of post-production work, which pieced together some different takes -- each shot is consequently very long, causing us another reason for having to be patiently following the ever-moving camera, which easily beats that of Brian DePalma.
For all its techinical achievement, "Irreversible" suffers from its own methond of storytelling. Compared with the violent first half, the latter peaceful part looks inevitably much weaker. Sometimes, the back-through-time tactics create an original effect; when we see too frivolous Marcus, who ignores the presence of Alex at party, we feel sense of tragedy and folly of humans, as we know what is going to happen after that scene. The film has some unexpected moments when we think -- imagining "what if" situations which, as you know, are always very futile attempts of humans as every history tells. And of course, I know that by the combination of Alex's heaven and hell, Noe is making his own commentary about our life. The film tells us twice on screen "Time destroys everything" and, right, that's another point. But I am afraid the method is too simple and too obvious, and doesn't hold well not least after such intense violence.
Still you want to see? OK, then, here's some tips for you that might make you understand this one better, which I quote from the booklet I bought at mutiplex in Japan. 1) Noe thought of the concept of "Irreversible" in May, 2001, using Cassel and possibly Bellucci. But as she was to work for two "Matrix" films from September, he had very short time to prepare for actual shooting. 2) They shot the sequences chronologically, I mean in this case, from "heaven" to "hell." 3) You see Philippe Nahon as ex-butcher, who was in Noe's previous films. The dialgues are all ad-lib. 4) Noe had difficulties in "ending" the film (in this case, the most peaceful scene of Mercus and Alex making love). There seem to have been several versions, but he decided on the present one, which shows a poster of one masterpiece film. That film's director, now gone for some years, is famous for a film starring Malcolm McDowell, who played a role of "Alex" -- well, Noe must respect Stanley Kubrick.
As a whole, for my part, I confess I was very much impressed with the film. But because of the nature of the film, I cannot "recommend" this one to you. I wrote down what I know. That's why I give only three stars.
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on April 19, 2004
First of all, the cameraman needs to learn to hold the camera steady in his hands. Be prepared for 95 minuts of shaky, unstable, jerky camera movements on your screen. After the first five minutes I got seasick. Also the movie is shot in dark colors, and usually you have hard times seeing the details, and only observe moving silhouettes (in addition to the graininess and annoying jerky camera movements). The first murder scene in the basement of a sleazy gay club is not worth watching at all, as it tells nothing, signifies nothing, and from the cinematographic viewpoint made especially badly and unconvincing. The rape scene is also very unnatural and laughable, making me think that the movie had no director whatsoever. All in all the movie is a big waste of time - the storyline is one-dimensional and boring, the acting is poor, the directing is virtually non-existent, and the camerawork is the worst in years. I don't know why all those critics were raving about the flick, but even the mediocre Kill Bill would be much better worth of your time and money.
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on April 13, 2004
Gosh... Where to start?
First of all, there probably will be spoilers in this comment (I don't dare call it a review), so if you haven't seen the movie and intend to, you should probably look away. Or maybe not, if your intent is to prepare yourself to watch it.
If you're reading this, then you've probably read most of the other comments so I won't offer any synopsis, you know what it's about in terms of storyline. However, NOTHING can prepare you for this emotional devastation that is Irreversible. It's a primal assault on the senses and emotions, unlike any other I've ever experienced. One word of advice: if you really want to try to get to the core of this work, watch it until the very end. Beware though: it is literally NOT for the faint of heart. And I don't mean queasy stomachs by that, although those sensitive in that area should also think thrice before deciding to watch this.
The first quarter of the movie is an absolute abomination. The first twenty minutes are something that will probably stay in your mind for life. It is that barbaric and gruesome. I freely admit, I could watch only part of the murder that takes place in the club. I had to avert, even close, my eyes. And I had to lower the sound, completely, until the monstrous deed was done. This sequence is formidably potent, and has the power to make you feel literally close to panic. For the record, I've seen it all too, in terms of horror movies and the like, so I've seen much more than my fair share of gore ;-) Or at least I thought so. The "problem" is that it goes far beyond just gore on film. I don't think I can clearly depict here in mere words the why and how, the reason, regarding why it's so brutal, so raw a shock, but the fact is, it's a lightning bolt right into your cortex.
Frankly speaking, the infamous rape scene coming some fifteen minutes after that is not nearly as traumatizing. Sure, it's atrocious, hard, viciously brutal. But honestly, what do you expect from a rape? Of course it's gonna be one the most despicable act that you'll see, no surprise here. I digress, but what did people expect of that scene before the scandals and controversy began? It's for sure what a rape should be: violently repulsive and merciless. However, except for a few seconds at the scene's end, it's nowhere near as primitive and graphically indescribable as the first -and only- murder in the film.
All this being said, this work is THE most vibrant anti-violence statement I've ever seen put on film. There is no embellishment of any kind here, no stylish editing, smart cuts, slow motion... It shows violence -and all of it- only as it should be seen: repulsive to the extreme, blindly and uselessly destructive, utterly unable to resolve anything, and as the most terrifying dead-end that exists; indeed, having totally irreversible results. There is no coming back from such acts, no redemption either. Man just has to live with his obsession of being stronger than his neighbour, whatever it takes. It's also, let's admit it, a very cruel movie, in terms of its resolution -yes, the beginning of the movie as such, as the character of Pierre destroys the wrong man, and the rape's perp is not only alive and kicking, but apparently rejoicing at the sight of another act of terrifying violence. That, by the way, puts an end once and for all to all the ridiculous comments I've heard made that the movie was an apology for revenge. This is in total opposition with what really happens in this story, and on the screen. It's up there for everyone to see. The film is much too clever to try to deliver a lesson however, but it's obvious to anyone who watched this closely that Noe does not condone violence of any kind, but condemns it without appeal. He just gives a cold, harsh look at whatever is sleeping -or not- inside ALL of us. There is no clear cut, prefabricated opinion to have about the madness and rage these people dive in. This is part of the unease we feel as we watch... The characters are likeable, but blend. Anyone could be in their place.
The movie shows it as real as it gets, not only the violence of course, but in terms of witnessing plain, normal people who are going straight to hell because of uncontrollable circumstances. All it takes is nine minutes, and dark, nasty chance. All of this is not preachy, by the way, just the embryo of reflections I have from seeing this film a few days ago. I'm only beginning to feel good -no, strike that, NORMAL again just now. So this scribing is probably not very structured or coherent. ;-)
There's much to be said about the arresting camera work, the infernal soundtrack (the synthesizer drone during the club scene evokes a demented and anguished monochord lament), and mostly the quality of the acting -suffice to say that all the actors in the movie do a superb job of capturing truth.
In the end, Irreversible is a most unique, if sobering, experience. A traumatizing experience, but ultimately a rewarding one, as there is good and beauty in the film too. It's quite a paradoxical feeling though, and starkly ironic; this beauty is all the more dramatic because as we are witness to it, we do know at the same time it's about to be irremediably destroyed soon. That's also why it's obvious the movie could only be edited as it is, telling the story backwards, comparisons with Memento be damned.
So finally, whether or not you'll be willing to pay quite a lot in terms of emotional cost to experience the power of this film is all the question.
Good luck...
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on April 11, 2004
First,hats off to the director for using various camera tricks and techniques in engaging the viewer. It took me a few minutes to realize why the camera lens was in a severe state of vertigo the first 15 minutes into the film. Thank goodness however the entire movie was not filmed using this technique ! Probably would have passed out. The reason for the swirling and sickening motion of the lens and the droning of the high tech synth sound of the soundtrack in the beginning is to capture the madness of the moment of how one man and his friend are seeking vengeance for a heinous crime (rape) committed against his girlfriend. It also transports you into his head.
The entire story is told in a backwards sort of chronological order leading to previous possible events and circumstances that led to Monica Belucci's character becoming a rape victim. The rape scene is one of the most graphic I have seen in any film in my entire life ! You will begin to actually wonder if the scene indeed was real or not. The rape scene alone is one that can haunt the viewer for time to come. Other violent acts are just as equally shocking and extremely believable due to excellent makeup, special effects, and possible cg effects. There is frontal nudity of both male and female actors that may offend some viewers (this is definitely not for children, either)!
The biggest mind trick played on the audience is how the movie progresses in real viewing time, yet, you must keep in mind that the story is unfolding backwards. Hence leading to the beginning and not the end. As we follow Belluci's character and the others one soon almost forgets the first 15 shocking minutes of the film, including the underpass rape scene, and start to think that there is a happy ending. There is NO happy ending (nor beginning for that matter)...I went out on a limb to see this one, particularly since Roeper and Ebert raved about it. Well, in all honesty, it is a very brutal movie to sit through the first time and it is definitely not one I will be seeing again. Due to the filming and stroytelling techniques and all too realistic effects it does merit some attention but only by viewers who can stomach it !...
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on April 10, 2004
The controversy attached to 'Irreversible' no doubt stemmed from such audacity of the director to include such reastically graphic portrayals of violence and rape. Portrayal of the former involved a scene in which a man's head was crushed repeatedly and brutally with a fire extinguisher in the name of revenge. However, it is the 10 minute rape scene, in which all the nuances of humiliation, degradation and sheer animalism of rape is open for full-view exhibition, that caused the public outcry for the film's ban (unsuccessfully in Australia).
What was the point of such gratuity? Many say it was unnecessary to go to such extremes to prove a point. But it is important to realise that in the real world, these occurrences are commonplace. The film is a study of the dark side human nature. Ultimately it argues that violence is blind, destroying everything in its path, leaving a trail of irreparable damage in its wake. The violence stems from man's evil; the rapist simply wanted to use Belucci's character (Alex) for his own pleasure. This violence then begets more violence, as Alex's partner Marcus rampages through the night-life to find the perpetrator. Yet in the end, the man that suffered his vengeance and rage was not the rapist. And so the chain reaction initiated by one man's self-indulgence and morally reprehensible decision to rape led to the spiralling destruction of many other lives.
The title refers to the structure of the film, as viewers watch the cascade of events in reverse from the opening where Marcus and Pierre storm through a gay BDSM club, leading to the bashing of a man with the fire extinguisher, to the rape then to more happier times before these tragedies. The image of the beautiful untouched Belucci laying peacefully on luscious green grass helps to draw the movie to a conclusion. This reverse chronology detaches us as viewers from any empathy we may have for the Marcus and Pierre, inhibiting us from labelling their acts of retaliation as heroic and justified, such that we are able to witness the extent of their reprehensible behaviour, regardless of the motivation. But it also helps to soften the heavy blow delivered by such a dark and pessimistic ("Time destroys all things") film by concluding with a picturesque, almost niave and innocent view of the world.
While the film does raises genuine thought-provoking issues, it loses points for times of blatant pretention namely, amongst other inane attempts for the avant-garde, the swirling camera angle lasting for the first 20 or so minutes of the film acheiving nothing except to make the audience nauseous. And the attempts to explain the events as some act of fate via visions in dreams destabilises the foundation for the film's arguments as it suddenly and paradoxically argues that the horrors of life do not arise from bad decisions of some but, ludicrously, from some cosmically regulated force. Moreover, the inclusion of the gay club was an attempt to increase shock value. To discriminate against gay people by placing them in a negative context indicates the homophobic contention of the writers/director and only serves to magnify the myopia in the movie's vision.
A movie not for the faint-hearted to the weak-in-stomach. This piece is an insightful human study but alas, succumbed to the desire to appeal the the pretentious art-house crowd.
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