While Gaspar Noé has never tackled the horror genre straight on, almost all of his films dabble in it. From Irreversible to Enter the Void, Noé is behind some of the most punishing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had to endure. At least with his latest, Climax, it’s being shrouded by a wild dance party.
Described as a hypnotic, hallucinatory, and ultimately hair-raising depiction of a party that descends into delirium over the course of one wintry night, in Climax, a troupe of young dancers gathers in a remote and empty school building to rehearse. Following an unforgettable opening performance lit by virtuoso cinematographer Benoît Debie (Spring Breakers; Enter the Void) and shot by Noé himself, the troupe begins an all-night celebration that turns nightmarish as the dancers discover they’ve been pounding cups of sangria laced with potent LSD. Tracking their journey from jubilation to chaos and full-fledged anarchy, Noé observes crushes, rivalries, and violence amid a collective psychedelic meltdown.
While the trailer looks like exquisite madness, what grabbed my attention was the email from A24 that boasted a quote that says Gaspar Noé “made a Satanic Step Up,” further adding that “the virtuosic filmmaker gives a brilliantly deranged tour through hell’s best dance party.” Whattttttttttt?!
Slashfilm was cool enough to collect some quotes out of the Cannes World Premiere earlier this year:
Eric Kohn at Indiewire praised the “drug-induced frenzy,” saying:
Gaspar Noé’s remarkable psychedelic ride is his most focused achievement, a concise package of sizzling dance sequences and jolting developments that play like a slick mashup of the “Step Up” franchise and “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom,” not to mention the disorienting cinematic trickery of Noé’s own provocative credits.
“Climax” shares much in common with the levitating camerawork of his divisive “Enter the Void,” but unlike that sprawling endeavor, this 96-minute odyssey feels like just the right length to encapsulate his talent for disorienting viewers while inviting them into his madcap intentions of overtaking their senses. It might be his best movie; it’s certainly the best snapshot of a talented filmmaker committed to fucking with your head.
Robbie Collin at Telegraph calls it a return to form:
There is nothing as grueling here as there was in Irreversible, nor anything as explicit as Love, though the film hardly disappoints on either front: horrifyingly, the female choreographer has brought her young son Tito with her, whose presence becomes a recurring source of heart-in-mouth discomfort. Noé has created a churning, repellent, wildly sexy tanztheaterwerk of pure Boschian decadence and derangement. It’s nice to have him back.
Giovanni Camia at The Film Stage called it “intoxicating,” and said that the film’s insanity serves a purpose:
There’s non-stop screaming, vicious beatings, self-harm, sexual assaults, incest, one girl’s hair goes up in flames, and another recreates Isabelle Adjani’s Possession freak-out to the tune of Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.” It’s all insane and intoxicating, and what’s perhaps most remarkable is that, ultimately, the ugliness and excess is legitimized by being in the service of an elaborate and ecstatically realized celebration of dancing as an art form.