Lui (Dario Argento) and Elle (Françoise Lebrun) are taken care of by their son Stéphane (Alex Lutz). The cast works wonderfully as an ensemble, displaying effortless chemistry, especially in very delicate scenes spread generously across the film’s runtime. Standing at a bold two hours twenty-two minutes, the film’s pacing is impeccable, soft, but relentless.
The script, performances and direction meld into a picture with immense heart, fleshing out explorations into parenting and our subconscious influences, and drug dependency, be they pharmaceutical or otherwise. Lui’s obsession with films and dreams made for a smooth connection with the recurring theme of memory. A brutal and honest depiction of elderly life with an incredibly subtle screenplay, perfectly capturing the entropy so widespread across the film. Despite the entropic tendencies of the story, the pacing builds smoothly and steadily. With a plethora of youthful romances depicted so readily in film, seeing a darker, elderly anti-romance, is, in spite of its emotional calamity, a breath of fresh air.
Stylistically, this bluntness in Gaspar Noé’s camera is a drastic shift from the camera working as an enhancement of the cruelties in previous works like Climax. In Vortex’s final edit, we bear witness to a split-screen for the vast majority of the film, much unlike Climax’s near one-take. These two angles are often, not just visually disconnected, but semantically, too. The edit allows us to follow two different stories simultaneously, while also broadening the information we may receive about characters if placed within the same setting. Already, Noé sets this film up to be one to rewatch. Not only does this display a commendable effort to still be experimental within a feature-length film, but the two disjointed frames feel like a commentary on perspective, and how much it controls our memories and experiences. A note to try to be warier of our actions, words and behaviours’ effects.
Strong musical segments merely bookend the film, and though a sparse musicality throughout served the film’s sobering tone, I feel it could have been given more focus, especially since in the scenes it is present, it is so rich. The opening song Mon amie la rose performed by Françoise Hardy, reveals just about enough of the film’s themes to get viewers invested and engaged for what is to come.
Gaspar Noé strikes, yet again, with a film so taxingly difficult to digest. Filled with great wonder, yet deep darkness, Noé’s scarce screenplay is remarkable to see unfold within the disjointed frames. Having proven himself to be radical and intentional with his directorial vision, I fondly anticipate my rewatch of Vortex and Noé’s works to come.