Can there be too much sex in a film primarily about love and sex? That was the question I struggled with the most while watching Love, the latest work from French provocateur Gaspar Noé. Daring, uncomfortable and surprisingly sweet, all the things considered of course, Love is meant to offer an honest and sentimental take on sexuality. The film involves a young American film student, Murphy (Karl Glusman), in Europe whose life has not gone the way he expected. Living with Omi (Klara Kristin) and their young son Gaspar, one of the many self-referential Easter eggs Noé slips into the film, Murphy has grown resentful of both Omi and his situation in general.
When the mother of his ex-girlfriend, Electra (Aomi Muyock), calls out of the blue to inquire about the whereabouts of her missing daughter, Murphy is quickly flooded with old memories. Worried about the well-being of his one true love, Murphy begins to reflect on his turbulent relationship with Electra and what they might have become had things not turned out the way they did.
Love is one of those rare dramas where utilizing 3D actually feels necessary. In Noé’s hands the film is a visual feast for the senses. It is as if the audience has been transported into a living painting, the colours are vibrant and every brush stroke feels unique and daring. Of course this is a Noé film so, as those familiar with this canon of films can expect, it is unapologetic about pushing the boundaries of cinema and taste. While the 3D “money shot” has been widely publicized, the film is packed with so much explicit unsimulated sex that it might even make a porn star blush.
The downside to this of course is that all of the various sexual encounters becomes numbing after a while. By time Murphy and Electra’s relationship dissolve to the point where sex is their only form of communication, the cracks in the film become clear. Similar to a flimsy pack of condoms bought from the dollar store, it eventually becomes apparent that there is not enough material to hold the film safely together. Told in Noé’s trademark fractured narrative structure, Love bounces around in time highlighting everything from what tore the couple apart to how they were initially brought together. However, the film lacks any really character depth or development. Whenever you think the film is about to say something deeper, Noé simply throws in another sex scene to past the time.
If the film had been cut down by twenty minutes, or replaced a few of the sex scenes with more character driven dialogue, it would have reached the level of greatness it had the potential of achieving. While I ultimately enjoyed Love for its craft, and oddly romantic beats, the lack of emotional depth kept me from falling head over heels in love with the film.