Sometimes a movie is so frustrating that all the words you might use to describe it jumble up in a giant cluster, like some forgotten piece of tape behind the toilet, just out of reach, forever collecting pubes and dust until the end of time. One instance that immediately comes to mind is William Vincent, with its lengthy scenes of James Franco watching youtube videos about jellyfish sex; I thought nothing could top it—it was King Clusterfuck of Mount Pretentious. But alas, I was wrong. Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void makes William Vincent look like Aliens—from the seizure-inducing opening credits to its eventual penis-cam grand finale, this film wanders at a snail’s pace, sometimes exploring the life of a near-nameless drug-dealer in Tokyo, but mostly just sweeping across rooftops, through walls, into orgies, and out lightbulbs. It’s a two and a half hour exercise in sleep resistance that will leave you wondering whether your checkbook is already balanced or if you successfully Tivoed Mad Men the night before.
The first hour spurs along at a clip decent enough—Oscar is a drug dealer who lives with his stripper sister, Linda. After lounging around the apartment musing over the Tibetan Book of the Dead and smoking several ounces of megacrack, he meets up with his friend Alex and heads down to “The Void” to sell some pills. He’s then chased into a tiny bathroom by some police officers and shot for resisting arrest. Here’s where the trippy stuff kicks in. Hopefully you were paying attention when Oscar’s friend described the full lifecycle of the Tibetan Book of the Dead—that’s what you’re getting in a nutshell. Essentially, when you die you meander aimlessly for a bit, see your life flash before your eyes, wander around some more via soul-sucking lightbulbs, then get shot out in a Japanese man’s big spoogy wad, eventually impregnating your own sister. At least that’s what this movie would lead us to believe. Don’t get me wrong, the narrative constructing Oscar and Linda’s background is intriguing—the two were left to protect one another after a car crash left both their parents to die before their eyes—but it only fills about 45 minutes of this two point five hour film. I wish I could say more about why this film fails, but the truth is, there’s too much. This is the kind of crap you get when you allow an arthouse director to work without an editor.
Remember George Bailey’s life story from It’s a Wonderful Life—how the narrator trimmed down the events that defined George to just a handful of key moments: his childhood rescue of his brother, the death of his father, his brother’s eventual graduation and entry into the business world? These few scenes tell us more than we need to sympathize with George—provide insight into his self-sacrificial, ever-resilient soul. They form the backbone of Clarence’s quest and are the moments the film’s climax hinges upon. Enter the Void has no climax. Unless you count some crusty Japanese dude blowing his load in Linda’s vagina (shot from the point of view of both a penis and a vagina!), there is no great denouement, no moment of realization. As we gather from his lifetime reflections, Oscar meant nothing to anyone—acted only to make people’s lives miserable. This is It’s a Wonderful Life focused on the leads of Requiem for a Dream—and as anyone who has seen Requiem for a Dream will tell you, it’s not a wonderful life; it’s a bleak, hopeless cycle of apathy and delinquency—pain and rejection. The last hour of this film somehow manages to feel more meandering and pathetic than Oscar himself, which is an honest-to-god accomplishment. It says nothing, develops nobody and feels like torture. You’ll check your watch as the antagonist falls through ceiling lamps, yawn as his ghost passes friends-become-hoboes, and squirm uncomfortably as he spends too much time eagerly watching strangers fuck in “Love Hotel”. It’s a movie drenched in existential pretension—the kind of trash 13-year olds might watch in the background of their room while listening to horrible Green Day inspired poli-rock anthems. There is no point to this film—its point is futility, is pointlessness.
Perhaps I’m too old to appreciate real artistic angst. I didn’t enjoy Requiem for a Dream, rue the lost art of campy horror, and don’t particularly enjoy “gritty violence” for the sake of itself. I prefer films more in the vein of The French Connection, which is more of a crime drama than a drug film—at least in the modern sense. All of that aside, my real concern is who’s the audience for these films? Junkies? People who want to be junkies? Snotty film elitists? Who really finds this shit appealing? Who’s sitting in their beds late at night, longing for one movie to “get it right”—to show what it’s really like to ride a dildo ass-to-ass for crack money or die face-down in a dive-bar’s toilet for selling a few pills? Do they nod in agreement at the film’s end—say “Yes! That lifestyle is worthless! Ha-ha!” Are they smugly satisfied at their own aversion to DMT, PCP and other drugs cobbled together from anagrams they’ve never even dreamt of? Or is it a scare-tactic? Are there throngs of hardened junkies out there giving up the junk because, holy shit, that film was freaky and pointless?
Hopefully the answer’s “no” to both. Sure, there’s unquestionably a bit of societal guilt movies like these assuage in us; everyone likes to know about art that, however dark its content may be, is intended to make the world better. But this film doesn’t even do that. Its portrayal of Tokyo is one of horrific highs and lows—cartoonishly divided between strip club kingpins getting blown under the table and hopeless drug-peddlers, locked in a collision course with authorities and death itself. For anyone misleading themselves to believe this film is “real”, go to any major city and look for a drug dealer. I DARE YOU to come to New York City and look for one. They’re here, sure, but they’re about as commonly spotted as a navy seal or professional assassin. Enter the Void centers around a niche character in a niche situation whose rarity is almost comparable to Die Hard’s John McClane—is an exaggerated cipher of an already glamorized armpit of society. Unlike John McClane, however, Oscar isn’t going to walk over glass or wow the audience—he simply drifts, in and out focus, across buildings, through the sky, into bellies and back into reality. The whole thing sounds artsy and beautiful on paper, but this is a two and a half hour film that feels like seven—a film that will leave you enraged and confused, not from its content, but from the struggle to find words to describe its awfulness. I can’t express how horrible this film is. I want my money back. I want my time back. Enter the Void is a puerile abortion of the worst kind, fully deserving of its title. Fuck this film.