CLIMAX – movie review

Reviewed for & by: Harvey Karten
Director: Gaspar Noë
Screenwriter: Gaspar Noë
Cast: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude Gajan Maull
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 2/13/19
Opens: March 1, 2019

Climax Movie Poster

When the most mature person in an ensemble of some fifteen adults is a 7-year-old kid, you know that you’re in for a cynical view of civilization. And cynical this is, as you might expect from writer-director Gaspar Noë, whose “Love” deals with an American in Paris with an unstable girlfriend who invites a pretty neighbor into their bed. Now he pulls out all the stops in a movie that could be called for want of a more specific title than this, “Lord of the Flies 2: Fifteen Years Later.” Except that the adults are the ones who need chaperoning while the young lad, Tito (Vince Galliot Cumant), the only sober fellow on the screen, gets locked in a room, unable to rescue the adults who are out of control.

Some of the film is fantastic. A later segment, though, is a downer that goes on for too long, some dancers becoming violent, others declaring their love. Opening on a scene in the snow, a look at a woman stretching all body parts therein, Benoît Debie, who is behind the lens somewhere in France listens in. The dancers, all in their twenties, gush about their profession, one saying that dance is everything and that she has no idea what she would do if she were not favored by Terpsichore.

The action takes place in the mid-nineties, far enough past the lifetime of Tchaikovsky who, if he is listening from the grave which accommodated him at age 53, might actually approve. He would realize that Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, however many times they are repeated (that’s what classics are), would give way to body work that would express their own time.

The racially diverse cast put on quite a show, with enough energy to light up a small town that would otherwise be too dependent on coal. And there’s lots and lots of foot work, arm work, and chit-chats about dick work. Characters during a break discuss how many women they’ve balled, whom they would like to ball, and who would be most responsive to their infinite charm.

As for the music, the techno is terrific, with a drumbeat that would drive the mice and bugs screaming from your apartment. The cast rivets. However, Noë should have quit while he was ahead. The word from Cannes is the audience thought that when the movie went on for less than an hour, they figured that it was over. Not so. Someone laced the sangria with LSD, and the results are not pretty. Nobody becomes enlightened. Sorry, Timothy Leary, your theory of the benefits of the hallucinatory drug does not stand up. As the drugged dancers bounce around, this time in slower motion than when they were sober, violence erupts. The young folks are not at all happy that someone dropped the drug into the punch. Accusations are made. Did the guy who does not drink do it? How about the woman who says that she is pregnant and therefore cannot touch the stuff? More flirtations take place, including Valentine-type “you are everything to me” line, while almost everyone is in pain.

At one time we human beings are in paradise. We were chased out, and while we have our moments of bliss, we are a fallen people. This does not mean that we are bound to be intensely involved in the overlong period when the thin veneer of civilization falls away. Given the excitement of the first half, you would do well to see this film.

96 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B