Climax is deeply unpleasant, super-stylish and horribly compelling, which is little surprise given it’s directed by Gaspar Noé, the man behind gratuitous rape-drama Irréversible and gratuitous sex drama Love.
Like his past work, it’s a surreal, inexorable descent into despair delivered with a pulsing soundtrack and nightclub lighting. It has little interest in establishing a line between soft porn and serious art, wavering between the two before breaking down into a queasy, bloody orgy of sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ EDM.
It follows 20-or-so hot young dancers who are recruited for some unspecified production, bringing them to the isolated, slightly creepy community hall in which the entire movie unspools. The opening shot lasts forever, taking in a breathtaking dance routine and the sleazy beginnings of a party that’s destined to end badly. The sangria, you see, has been spiked with LSD, and not the kind that makes you lounge about seeing pretty colours – more the kind that brings out your raging id and causes your deepest fears to surface in obscene and unpredictable ways.
Aggressive characters become homicidal, depressed ones suicidal, horny ones overcome with insatiable desire. It touches on fear of pregnancy, fear of being a bad mother, fear of being alone and unwanted, fear of your own messed-up sexual urges. It’s painful stuff, building in pace and ferocity until its inevitably bleak… well, climax.
As the group begins to trip terrible balls – making only a half-assed attempt to work out who’s responsible – the camera joins them in their intoxication, spinning woozily, lolling from character to character in a series of languorous, brilliantly choreographed shots. In the end, it’s Noé’s skill as a filmmaker that makes Climax bearable, but even then it’s hard work. It’s one for film connoisseurs and perhaps drug connoisseurs, but will prove too much for most people.