Vortex (Gaspar Noe)

Started by Robyn, September 03, 2021, 05:07:45 PM

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Gaspar Noé's 'Vortex' Sells to Utopia Following Acclaimed Cannes Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

QuoteGaspar Noé's "Vortex," an acclaimed meditation on mortality told entirely in split-screen, has sold to Utopia. The deal is for North American rights and comes on the heels of the film's debut at this year's Cannes, where it was greeted with a standing ovation and critical acclaim.

Eric Kohn of IndieWire compared to movie to the Oscar-winning "Amour," writing that the drama about an aging couple in a Paris apartment is "the most sensitive and accessible work from a filmmaker for whom those descriptors rarely apply." Indeed, Noé has carved out a career for himself as something of a cinematic provocateur, directing challenging and controversial works such as "Enter the Void" and "Climax," which have shocked and polarized viewers with their violence, psychedelic editing and edgy sex. The change in tone is partly due to the fact that "Vortex" was inspired by the deaths of some of the director's friends and his own near-fatal cerebral hemorrhage.


In theaters April 29, 2022

Presented in split screen, VORTEX tells the story of an aging couple in a Paris apartment. As the mother (Françoise Lebrun) faces advancing dementia, the father (Dario Argento) tries to care for her while dealing with his own declining health, and their son (Alex Lutz) does his best in spite of his own significant personal problems. With this film, Director Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void, Climax, Irreversible) delivers a career best, finding a level of compassion and tenderness that sacrifices none of the visual excitement that has marked his best work.


Gaspar Noé Is Not in Control, interview by Bilge Ebiri

Light spoilers throughout

QuoteWas it hard convincing Dario Argento to act in this film?

I'm very close friends with his daughter Asia. When I had the possibility to ask him to be in the movie, Asia said, "Oh, you should come to Italy to tell him about it." But he didn't know what it was about, so probably he thought I was coming to propose a horror movie or Climax 2 or something like that. I told him, "It's about an old couple." He said, "But I'm not old!" "I know you're not old. You're the enfant terrible of the Italian cinema!" But I think there were two things that made him say yes. The first one is that I talked about the film Umberto D. by Vittorio De Sica that he also loved, and the second is that I told him, "Hey, I just have a ten-page script and I would not write any dialogue for you to memorize. I'm going to be taking care of one of the cameras. You will be taking care of your character." That made him more comfortable. He's not an actor; he's never had to remember lines.

On the other hand, Françoise Lebrun is a veteran actress. Was it a challenge for her to work without a real script?

She worried about who would play her husband. She knew the name Dario Argento, but she hadn't seen his movies, so I gave her his autobiography and some of his films. She comes from a very different family of cinema, but both of them are so intelligent that they managed to get along from the moment they met. They're a very believable couple. He used to be a screenwriter before being a director, but before being a screenwriter, he was a film critic, so I decided, "Yeah, you'll play a film critic in the movie and you'll improvise your dialogues." And for Françoise, I said, "Sorry, but it's not very important what you're going to say because I want you to mumble all the time. I won't really understand what you're saying." I think she was a bit stuffed the first day, but I brought her a lot of videos, taking scenes from documentaries, and also personal videos that I had done with my mother, and other videos of other people to show the different types of dementia that can hit a woman. I said, "Please, you have to play with your eyes in this movie more than with the words." She said, "Okay, let me cook the character my way." And it was perfect.

How much of you is in the character of the son, Stéphane?

I don't do heroin.

I don't mean the junkie part, but the kind of person he is.

For me, Stéphane is a kind of loser that I always have playing the main part in my movies. The character of Enter the Void is a loser who wants to be a winner by selling drugs and he gets busted and he gets shot. Murphy, the main male character in Love, is a guy who goes to France to study cinema and he finds passionate love with a woman, and he ends up getting the neighbor he doesn't love pregnant, so his whole life takes another path. Yeah, he's also a loser. I would say Stéphane is also a nice loser who once could probably have been a winner because he seems intelligent. But half of my close friends that I like are losers. They've been partying and doing drugs, and they end up with family problems they cannot escape from.

I feel like almost all of your major characters on some level have some connection to you, though. I remember in Love, you have the protagonist who's an aspiring filmmaker, and you have the character that you yourself play and then a different guy named Noé. I feel like you're always putting some version of yourself in your characters.

Yeah. Also, the son in Vortex says he works in the film industry but he's probably just doing documentaries. He's fighting against his inner demon which is that he wants to take heroin again. I know 100 guys like him in Paris. And I relate to the father because he's a film critic; he's got posters on his walls and all these cinema books that I also have. And when it comes to the mother, she reminds me partly of my own mother. But also, I had a brain hemorrhage two years ago. They said there was 50 percent chance I would die, 35 percent chance that I would come back brain damaged, and just 15 percent chance that I would come back without brain damage, so I could have been in the same situation as the character played by Françoise. And I relate to the son because if I was not making movies or if I had an unwanted kid, probably today I would be doing heroin and watching DVDs, or trying to get some crack to try how good it feels. There's a lot of crack in Paris nowadays. France is sometimes late, so we're late with the crack, but now there's a lot of crack in the streets. All these people who were alone in the streets. Especially the first year of the confinement.

So you had the brain hemorrhage right before COVID lockdown?

Two days before having my brain hemorrhage, I had hard-core oyster poisoning. I felt like I was dying. It was during the Christmas period, and I was drinking a lot with my father. I think it was a mix of too much alcohol and that oyster poisoning.

When I came out of the hospital, it was at the end of January, and they told me, "You are very weak. Stay at your place. Just watch movies and don't go out." I said, "Oh, but all my friends are partying." They told me that I should stop smoking and if I had any temptation to use drugs, avoid those, but I never liked the drugs that speed you up. I'm being much sweeter to myself. I haven't smoked a cigarette for two and a half years, and I watched more movies in these last two years than I had seen for over a period of eight, nine years.

So I stayed at my place watching movies on Blu-ray. I bought many through eBay. All these Japanese classics that I hadn't seen. And then suddenly, COVID appeared, and everybody was hiding at home. There were no more parties, nothing. I was also told I should do some sports. I was on my bike going through the empty city during the day and watching DVDs at night. I don't know if anything like that will ever come back to our lives. There was something very dreamish about the confinement, even though I lost many close friends from COVID.

Ironically, during the pandemic, it seemed like everybody discovered Love on Netflix. Were you aware of this?

Yeah. People needed to masturbate. Now people don't buy DVDs. So on the platforms, what was the most pornographic thing they could find, and also that had an artistic excuse? Of course it was Love. There are millions of people who saw it in France during the pandemic, and in the States even more. They would never go to see an erotic movie in a theater because it was dangerous. People said to me, "Oh, thanks to you, I had my first threesome in my life," or "Thanks to you, I was watching the movie with this girl and we got horny and we made love and then we had a long love affair." But it seems the movie was mostly seen on Netflix because it had a not very successful commercial release when it came out theatrically. And people were watching it many times because they needed some support for the masturbation. How do they masturbate nowadays now that Love is not streamable? Which movie are they doing it to?


Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome partner label Utopia on October 25, 2022


Currently available for streaming on MUBI ! (at least in the States... lmk about other regionz if poss!)


Also available on Mubi in the UK.


Watched it on Mubi. It's quite good. I've not been a big fan of Noe's adolescent provocations in the past (although he is obviously a technically-skilled filmmaker) but Vortex goes deeper and is more conceptually interesting, to my mind, than his previous work. Its length arguably works against its impact a bit, and it veers into melodrama towards the end, but it is powerful and I admired it.