The second row is a little too close for comfort to watch a prolonged bout of mutual masturbation in 3D but that’s exactly where I found myself a couple of weeks ago during the opening scene of Gaspar Noe’s Love. With the camera zooming in so close to the action and me so close to the screen, it was hard to know where to look. Watch her give him a handjob to my left or him finger her to my right? I was so close to the action I couldn’t possibly do both. So I decided to compromise and sheepishly look down at my shoes.
Okay, obviously this is the movie where the sex is unsimulated and shot in 3D so clearly I showed up looking to see some sex. I regretted missing this at TIFF whose website peaked my interest with “3D ejaculation, anyone?”. What I could not have anticipated was how awkward it would be to watch at first. Or, once I’d gotten over the initial discomfort, how boring it would be. Love scenes are always tough to sell, it turns out, just because the penetration is real doesn’t mean the passion is.
And just because the images are 3D doesn’t mean the characters are. Karl Glusman plays Murphy (so they can make a pointless reference to Murphy’s Law at some point), an American aspiring filmmaker living in Paris. He wakes up on New Years Day (or “January 1st”, as it’s called in this movie) to a frantic voice mail message from his ex’s mom. Elektra (Aomi Muyock) is missing and probably suicidal. Murphy is now living with Omi, with whom he has a young son, but his whiny interior monologue reveals that he is fed up with her and is still hung up on Elektra. Before you feel too sorry for him, you should know that he cheated on Elektra with Omi and called her a “selfish cunt” when she got upset that he had knocked up some other woman.
Murphy and Elektra are moody people and all this moodiness was starting to feel hypnotic. I could get into this story about Murphy trying to find his lost love. Unfortunately, Noe devotes very little time to this mystery and overwhelms us with flashbacks of the Murphy-Elektra love affair, which seems to have been mostly a series of increasingly trashy fights followed by increasingly tedious make-up sex. It gets dull pretty quick and it doesn’t help that Noe made a big mistake writing this script in his second language. “Have you ever made love on opium?” Elektra asks. “No,” says Murphy. “You should. It’s great”.
So, did it need to be in 3D? Well, “unsimulated sex in 3D” is a cool gimmick and it clearly got my attention. And the 3D ejaculation was anything but anti-climatic and I dare you not to watch it without ducking or at least flinching. Other than that, the story is too dark and the filmmaking too pseudo-artsy to work as a guilty pleasure but it’s also too awful to work as art.