Anybody who sat through the challenging, ultra-violent Irreversible already knows about French cinema's enfant terrible Gaspar Noé, and what he's capable of. So if you have any idea who he is, you've already decided whether you can't wait to be thrilled by the director's visionary new Enter the Void or if you want to stay away from it at all costs. In either case, this film will not defy your expectations.
Noé sets his story in the most modern, most soulless neighborhood in Tokyo he could find, where a small group of drug-using expats from various countries has gathered. At the center of the story is the relationship between Oscar and Linda, a brother and sister from the US who have become extremely close following a family tragedy when they were children. How close they are is somewhat left to the imagination, though Noé suggests a connection as creepy as it is supposedly profound.
The film is shot, in a certain sense, entirely from Oscar's point of view. In the first section, this is quite literal, with the camera "blinking" every time Oscar does. After his untimely demise (I'm not really giving anything away), the rest of the film is a hallucinatory trip through Oscar's post-death existence, where we not only revisit his past but observe the lives of those he's left behind. Though Noé might cringe at the comparison, Enter the Void's story is not all that different from The Lovely Bones, except that it adds explicit sex, pervasive drug use, and 21st century psychedelia. The same dank, moody cinematography from Irreversible is on display, and if the English-speaking cast doesn't quite rise to the level of the previous film's French superstars, they are adequate, though the jury's still out on whether Paz de la Huerta, as Linda, is a good actress or merely an exhibitionist.
I can't quite call Enter the Void a love or or hate it film, for I myself am rather ambivalent about it. There's no denying that Noé's visuals are spectacular, and that he is one of few major filmmakers working today who are truly dedicated to expanding the medium. However, as with Irreversible, I found his "big ideas" pretentious and juvenile, the sort of self-serious artsiness that a good director should get out of his system while in film school. I'm not the first reviewer to sum up Enter the Void as a stupid movie but a mesmerizing sensory experience, but Noé himself compared his film to Avatar, and that may tell you everything you need to know. See it on a big screen with loud stereo sound, or don't see it at all.