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2003 - R - 95 Mins.
Director: Gaspar Noe
Producer: Christophe Rossignon
Written By: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Philippe Nahon, Jo Prestia
Review by: David Trier
It's true. Some things are irreversible. For example, I can't go back and unwatch this irrtating, nauseating and offensive film.

As told backwards in exactly the same way as Memento, Irreverible tells the story of a woman raped and the men who avenge her. It begins with the boyfriend (Vincent Cassell), and ex-boyfriend/friend (Albert Dupontel) searching for the assailant in a gay nightclub/dungeon and bludgeoning their find to death. Backtrack a little bit and we see the events that lead them to the nightclub. Backtrack even further and we see Alex (Monica Belucci) journey alone down a tunnel in France and get brutallly sodomized and disfigured by a vicious fiend. As we continue to go back, we see the circumstances that lead up to her leaving a party without her friends and the further definition of her relationship with the two men.

French newcomer director Gaspar Noe really blows his wad on this one. Besides the obvious Memento gimmick (forgiveable because to tell the story in chronological order would reveal its simplicity), he seems to revel in abusing Dogme-style realism. In this, he seems to have employed a flying midget on crack as his cinematographer and might as well have left the room during the film's more gruesome and relentless scenes.

There's no reviewing this film without a discussion on the rape scene. Rape occurs and is naturally a valid subject for film. Sometimes it can be alluded to, sometimes it needs to be shown. And I don't believe directors should be required to censor themselves just because their vision may offend. However, there's something to be said for a director who has the ability to portray true visceral horror (which rape is) without being exploitative. It's almost as if Noe thinks rape is a little bit fun to watch as he subjects the audience to a full ten mintes of Monica Belucci very realistically portraying a woman being sodomized. I've seen a lot of gruesome imagery on the screen, but this is first time I have ever buried my head in my shirt and plugged my ears with my fingers to drown out the guttural heaving. To some, this may be a glowing recommendation, but in my opinion, if you can't portray the horror without showing every detail, then you've failed as a director. Your job is to show what you have to and thus inspire the audience to imagine what you don't need to show. We don't need to see a ten minute anal-rape scene any more than we need to see people on the toilet.

Cassel, Dupontel and Belucci are all good, maybe even excellent. And although the director is too ever-present in his choices, there are a few gimmicks that are effective. And the special makeup effects are well-achieved. But as a whole, the film's pseudo-intellectual theory that time destroys everything is ultimately meaningless. The film is downright boring until we're finally clued in to the story being backwards and the reason why these characters are trying to find someone called "Tapeworm" in a place called "The Rectum".

There are a lot of good French films, marked by various forms of directorial experimentation. But Noe comes off as way too full of himself, and Irreversible is about as artistically dignified as a child pulling the wings off of a fly.
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

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