25 March 2021

Gaspar Noé's Love (2015)

For some reason, Gaspar Noé's Love caused something of a stir, with the word 'provocateur' being bandied around everywhere. Well, there's nothing new about Noé being labelled a provocateur, and there's nothing new about real sex in an 'arthouse' film. Come to that, telling a story backwards – as Noé did in Irréversible – is not new, although in Love we know the end in the beginning.

Murphy (Karl Glusman) is married to Omi (Klara Kristin) and has a son called, er, Gaspar. Murphy is also the name Noé's mother was born with: does this suggest some autobiographical element? Well, Murphy is a film student – there are posters of The Birth of a Nation, M and Salò on his wall – and he's interested in making a film about 'sentimental sexuality', containing the basic fluids of life: 'blood, sperm and tears': he missed out sweat, but that's in here too. Really, what we have here is kind of modernised version of an old-fashioned love story, only without a happy end.

Murphy is really worried about his ex-girlfriend Electra (Aomi Muyock), who has gone missing and he and her mother fear that she has killed herself. We never find out if she has, but the film is a two-hour trip through Murphy's mind, into the past which led up to the situation he now finds himself in.

It's important to say that Murphy isn't really a nice guy: an American in Paris, he's extremely self-centred, jealous, pretentious, violent, lying, and of course wants everything to go the way he plans. It's OK for him to have casual sex in a bathroom at a party, but he becomes drunk and wildly jealous that Electra is, he believes, having sex with an art gallery owner – Noé himself in a wig – and attacks him. When he's told he should calm down and be more French, meaning that both he and Electra should have sex with other people but still keep together, they visit a club échangiste but he – you guessed it – gets jealous.

The crunch comes after Omi, Murphy and Electra have a threesome, after they've exchanged fluids that is. Omi by chance lives in a neighbouring flat, which is how they got together, and one day when Electra is not there she has a word  with Murphy over the balcony, invites him in and the inevitable happens. It's not inevitable that Omi should get pregnant though, but that's what it comes to: Electra taken off (maybe dead) and Murphy crying in the bath while he hugs little Gaspar. Yep, in spite of the huge helpings of sex (including cum shots), love is definitely the subject.

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