When you’re a kid you test your courage in different ways and lot of them are dumb. Climbing too high in a tree, eating some disgusting insect or picking a fight with another kid twice your size. These things never end well.
Then there’s movies we watch for no other reason than they are disturbing. Not disturbing like your typical Hollywood horror movie serving up dead-teenagers-on-a-stick as the film critic Joe Bob Briggs once described slasher flicks. I don’t care how many horny babysitters and jocks Jason or Freddy or Michael Myers stab, slash and dismember. I’ve never been into those kind of mindless kill-a-thons. They’re fine for those who enjoy that kind of thing. They can have my share.
The type of movies I find troubling are the ones that climb behind your eyeballs and set up house in your head. Films such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Audition, Irreversible, Requiem For A Dream, Last Exit to Brooklyn, A Clockwork Orange and Caligula.
Some of these movies are really quite good like Requiem For A Dream and A Clockwork Orange as opposed to Caligula which is just pornographic trash, but one with a big budget and well-known actors. Caligula is gross, stupid and jaw-droppingly awful in its blood-letting, disembowlings, dismembering thrown in on top of the blow jobs and other explicit sex scenes. One day when I work up the nerve I’ll go into some specifics about why Caligula is hands-down the absolute worst movie I have ever seen.
Speaking of gross-outs, let me tell you about Irreversible.
The premise is as simple as it is repulsive. A beautiful woman is walking alone through a subway tunnel. Over the next 10 minutes she will be threatened, beaten and raped.
We get to watch.
Irreversible is not a good movie. The movie rests on two scenes–one of stomach-churning violence and a prolonged, painfully graphic rape and beating to carry it for two hours and it can’t do it. Wrapped around a scene of a man’s head caved in with a fire extinguisher and Monica Bellucci as Alex, suffering through being anally penetrated and repeatedly kicked in the face by a brutal pimp is a extremely talky, dull, pretentious as hell and pretty dull story of a woman and the two men who both love her and go off on a misguided search for revenge with awful consequences.
Oh, and did I mention the story is told backwards from the end to the beginning? A fun movie Irreversible is not. From the opening the director, Gaspar Noe You don’t enjoy it as much as you endure it. And you’ll feel very bad when its over. If you’re still awake.
What makes Irreversible such an unsettling experience is the way Noe films the rape. For ten minutes he turns the camera on Bellucci being savagely raped and he leaves it on. There are no cuts and no edits. Noe lingers on the assault with sadistic glee and denies the audience any relief beyond closing their eyes.
I’ve seen more disturbingly ugly scenes than Irreversible punishes the viewer with, but never as prolonged and never as distressingly cruel. Telling yourself, “Okay, it’s only a movie and Monica Bellucci didn’t really get raped,” isn’t much help. I know she wasn’t really raped. I just feel like she did and that’s upsetting enough.
To further push the buttons of the audience Noe plays head games. The two male “heroes” search for Alex’s assailaint, La Tenia (The Tapeworm–charming) in a S&M gay bar called The Rectum and end up attacking and killing the wrong man while the real La Tenia stands by and watches.
It seems perverse to call a movie like Irreversible, “entertainment.” It’s a geek show with pretensions of greater meaning. That’s bullshit. Who wants to see a man’s head crushed by a fire extinguisher? Who wants to see a woman anally raped and kicked in the face? Only a sadist or a masochist, which I am neither.
Rape has become almost trivialized the way it is portrayed in most conventional films and network television. Watch this shit and you’ll never be blase about rape again. I can almost guarantee that.