Technically, this movie’s been out for a few weeks now, but it was playing at theaters that weren’t worth the drive out for, or worth the ticket price. But, now that it’s playing at the AMC, I’ll be adding it to the list.
Trailer is vague, but from what little I’ve read, it looks like it’s about dancers who don’t realize that the sangria they’re drinking is laced with LSD and start having hallucinations.
Now for the crew. Writing, directing, and co-editing is Gaspar Noé, known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Benoît Debie, known for SISTERS BROTHERS (2018), and the upcoming THE BEACH BUM (2019). Finally, Noé’s co-editor is Denis Bedlow, known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of.
Gotta hand it to this movie, it looks like a trip. No sure if I know where the horror element comes in based on the one trailer that I’ve seen, but I’m willing to admit that maybe I won’t unless I see the movie. Smart marketing. Who knew that was still a thing?
This is my honest opinion of: CLIMAX
Set in France, circa 1996. Renowned dance choreographer Selva (Sofia Boutella) is putting a team of talented dancers together for a big performance for her boss. After the audition process of hopefuls, they get together and rehearse for three days. After their rehearsal, they party it up and start unwinding by dancing, socializing, and drinking sangria. What starts off as a simple release of tension soon takes a turn for the worse. The group becomes increasingly confused and slowly becomes more bitter toward one another, leading to Selva to suspect that the sangria is drugged. The revelation leads to paranoia and hostility as some struggle for sobriety, but others lose themselves to madness.
Well… shit, this is why I’ll never do LSD. But I would totally watch this movie again. What a fuckin’ trip.
Before we get into it, I want to point out that this is very loosely based on real events. There really was a French dance troupe that was at an after-party drinking alcohol that was laced in LSD, but the real event was less eventful than the movie, where people get set on fire and pregnant women are kicked in the stomach. That didn’t happen in real life.
Now, I know that this movie has been criticized for not having a story. This is very true. But then again, I’m pretty sure “story” wasn’t this movie’s intention. Usually, when I talk about a movie being a “visual fantasia,” this is exactly what I mean. This movie is pure camera work, visuals, and unbridled acting. I respect the fuck out of this movie for what it accomplishes. The first scene we get with all the dancers doing their thing, it’s shot extremely well. It’s elaborate and certainly a lot going on, but when the camera needs to focus on a single person or a small group, you know what you’re supposed to be watching. And it’s all done in one shot no less. I was more than a little bit impressed. To see all their crazy moves, going past one another in perfect unison, I can’t imagine the amount of takes and trust that each actor and dancer had to have in each other. And not just that, but when the actual drug trips start, we get another single long take. Sure, you could argue that all we’re watching is Boutella walking from one end of the abandoned school where the movie is set to another, but it’s disguised behind character interactions and reactions to either each other, or their own high. What makes all of this even more impressive, pre-production took only four weeks, and was shot in chronological order in fifteen days. Just shy over two weeks. Holy fuck, that’s damn awesome.
However, I’m going to mention only one real issue that I took with the movie, and that’s that a couple of scenes prattle a little too long. Specifically, I mean the audition tapes and the candid scenes between the rehearsal and the drug trip. On a narrative standpoint, I think I understand what it’s going for. In the audition tapes, everyone’s prim and proper. Polite, courteous, passionate, everything that one would expect from an audition process. But then you have the candid pairings and then everything turns to shit as it’s revealed that more than a few people are perverted assholes and judgmental bitches. This is in service to keep the audience on their toes and guess who’s going to die in the movie and who will live. It’s just… we hang on these two scenes for way too long. I mean, how many people did we have to watch audition? Sorry, movie, but even though I was taking notes, even I couldn’t remember half the cast of characters that were being sneezed out at me. Whatever test you were trying to prepare me for, I was going to fail it. And in the candid pairings, I get it. Assholes. Bitches. The lot of them. Why are we cutting back to them so frequently?
But even those issues don’t matter much in the long run because, as I said before, the movie doesn’t make it obvious who’s going to get axed. With only two exceptions, Boutella and Souheila Yacoub, who plays Lou, everyone else is just a dancer. Also, there was no script for this movie. No, seriously, not one. This movie was entirely made on improvised lines. Director Gaspar Noé literally told the actors and dancers who asked for a script to learn their lines, “no, just come to the set and do whatever you want, I’ll never push you to do anything against your will and if you have any ideas please tell them to me.” I think this is why the movie is considered an “experimental” movie. But that’s ballsy and quite risky. Hell, I think even Boutella was hesitant to sign on because of the lack of script. Maybe she’s just uncomfortable with improv. I hope so, because then I wouldn’t feel alone in hating improv. In any case, this went for everyone. Hell, the production of the movie is almost as fascinating as the actual movie itself.
Overall, I started thinking that this movie was just really good. But the more thought I put into it, and the more I read about it, this film is something of a rare filmmaking achievement. From the production of the film to the final product, everything about this movie is incredible. Fine, tell me there’s no story. Tell me there’s no depth to the characters. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass. I love this movie. I want to see it again, and I want to own it on Blu-Ray when the time comes. So you can bet your sweet ass that I’m recommending folks to see it. It’s not for the feint of heart, so brace yourself, but it’s fantastic.
My honest rating for CLIMAX: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
- THE AFTERMATH
- THE MUSTANG
- CAPTIVE STATE
- FIVE FEET APART
- WONDER PARK
- THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT
- NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE
- NO MANCHES FRIDA 2: PARAÍSO DESTRUIDO
- PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE / SORRY ANGEL
- FAITH, HOPE & LOVE
Next week’s reviews: