Oscar (Brown) is a young Westerner living in a one-room flat in Tokyo, where his life is a blur of drug-taking. He's utterly devoted to his sister Linda (de la Huerta), who's also in Tokyo working as an erotic dancer. While on a risky drug deal with his friend Alex (Roy), Oscar meets Victor (Alexander) at the seedy club Void. But they're caught in a police raid, and Oscar is shot, travelling out of his body into the night. Perhaps he can still watch over Linda from beyond the grave.
Noe's boundless inventiveness unleashes astounding visual flourishes from the time-lapse credits to the jaw-dropping finale. He stirs in animation and digital trickery to create a mesmerising stream of consciousness, assembled like a single take in which even the flashbacks seem to emerge organically as they fill in the back-story and add a powerful emotional kick. The only other movie you could even begin to compare this to is 2001, with its similarly episodic structure, swirling colours and life-after-death theme.
What sets this film apart is the way Noe puts us right into Oscar's consciousness, first roaming the streets and then floating through walls and over the city. Each scene is packed with telling details, especially as we see characters interacting in ways that continually demand reinterpretation. Much of this is deeply disturbing (like dipping into the head of one of Linda's clients), extremely graphic (drifting through the rooms of a sex hotel) or full-on horrific (continually reliving the crash that killed his parents).
Images and sounds echo from scene to scene, and it's utterly riveting. Even when things start feeling endless and repetitive in the final hour, there are constant surprises along the way. Within each concentric circle (of hell?), Oscar discovers something else about his own life and how he really feels about his sister. It's simply astonishing filmmaking, and there's a lot of it.
Run time: 161 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 5th May 2010
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: BIM Distribuzione, Wild Bunch
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 24
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Gaspar Noe
Screenwriter: Gaspar Noe
Starring: Nathaniel Brown as Oscar, Paz de la Huerta as Linda, Cyril Roy as Alex, Masato Tanno as Mario, Jesse Kuhn as Young Oscar, Ed Spear as Bruno, Emily Alyn Lind as Young Linda, Olly Alexander as Victor
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