Gaspar Noé: Vortex

Vortex is a 2021 French drama film directed by Gaspar Noé. The film was shown in the Cannes Premiere section at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Gaspar Noé: Vortex

The last screening of the 2021 Festival de Cannes was the new film by Gaspard Noé, starring Dario Argento, Alex Lutz and Françoise Lebrun. It was probably the best out-of-competition film at the Cannes Film Festival. Noé is loved and always well-received in Cannes. As Thierry Frémaux jokes, Gaspard Noé always makes a film for the Festival and it's always shown at the very end as he starts filming at the last minute. The irony of Noé's working methods is not without reason: his previous film Lux Æterna - which also premiered out of competition at Cannes - took five days to shoot without a fixed script.

Whereas Eternal Light was stigmatised as a meaningless and merciless provocation and the director himself was accused of narcissistic self-repetition, Vortex is completely devoid of both, and the whole is sustained in halftones. However, Noé does return here to certain elements of his own directing: the quasi-Godardian inside-out credits he uses in almost every film, the splitting of the frame into two parallel unfolding stories - the protagonist's parents played by Francoise Loebren and Dario Argento, the master of Italian giallo. Unlike Noé's previous work, split-screen is used here throughout the narrative. In his interview for Troiscouleurs, Noé admits that this decision was not the original one, but it was a very true one, as it most accurately conveys the idea of being alone for two. At times when watching it, you get the persistent feeling that the characters - father and mother - live in different houses or, if this film were a little more psychedelic, in parallel worlds.

Hell is different, and it's here. Noé's film leaves no hope for the best but reassures us that the best of the possible has already happened. The paternal and maternal figures are equally autonomous, each placed in a space where they are destined to live alone and die alone. With the character's death, light squares off and there is a plunge into eternal darkness. Noé is Argentinean by birth, but French by vocation, which means he is anti-clerical, secular and by the grace of God an atheist - as states in his previous film quoting Buñuel. So there will be no retribution in this life or the next: Noé's films are as hostile to the viewer as the world is to man. It is impossible to be spiritual without becoming breathless. A meaningless life is accompanied by an equally meaningless death. People are horrible, not nice. The world is full of madmen and villains but still - if only for a moment - we may not be alone, and this is why it's all worth it.

The film anticipates Noé's inherently controversial dedication to all those whose brains decay faster than their hearts. But despite the implied nihilistic pathos, the film is very personal. Noé saw his grandmother lose her mind when he was a child, and thirty years later his mother was in the same situation. He confessed in an interview that everyone who has buried their parents must be familiar with the same melancholy and discomfort that the film communicates to the viewer: posters, books and other bohemian messes that have no meaning or value after the demise of their owners. The decaying and then emptying flat in the film's finale is like a memory erasing itself reminding of a left-wing psychiatrist, an activist of May '68. The owner was fascinated by Fritz Lang, Frederico Fellini and Luis Buñuel, and the interior has largely absorbed all of this, but it has not become more humanised. To be more precise, it has ceased to be a human dwelling and has become a mere pile of things. The prototype of this labyrinthine room depicted in the film was the flat of film critic Jean-Claude Romer, a fellow director who passed away earlier this year. By Noé's own admission, the deceased had the most book-filled flat he had ever seen.

Alex Lutz and Françoise Lebrun
No results

Shop now