VORTEX - FILM REVIEW
Far from Noé's characteristic cinema about "sperm, blood and tears", Vortex is his most intimately emotional film ever. A filmmaker well known for a controversial filmography that often employs graphic violence and nudity directs a radically different film that might just prove to be his masterpiece.
An elderly couple's difficulties due to the alzheimer's disease suffered by one of the two might not be a subject that has been seen very often, and the plot involves some clichés regarding the difficulties in common lifestyle of the less young ones, but Noe still manages to find innovation.
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Through the gimmick of the split screen, he depicts the parallel actions undertaken by the husband and the wife, two halves of the whole, and their adult son. A visual strategy that employs a set of narrow frames, borrowed from László Nemes' Son of Saul but here reimmagined allows the viewers to follow two different points of view on the same plot. Noe's use of the Split Screen is so striking that even the more skepticals towards this technique will most likely end up accepting its greatness.
Despite being a much slower, quieter, much less distressful Gaspar Noé film, it is still a work of his at its heart. The orange-tinted colouring dominates most frames, the editing style with the black frames permains. A sense of anxiety, not as distressful as in other Noe films, still is present in those sequences where the effects of Alzheimers shows on the characters.
Drug abuse, a recurring trope in Noe's cinema, here is realligned to the abuse of medical drugs undertaken by many elders, as well as the addiction of their son.
The main roles are portrayed by Dario Argento, the famous horror film director, and Françoise Lebrun. Argento's notoriety allows to shadow his character in an aura of ambiguousness, which emerges in some aspects of his characterisation such as the references to his infidelity, his strictness in certain scenes and tenderness in others. Françoise Lebrun stands out however more than Argento in her performance.
The pacing does become tedious at a certain point. It feels like the film continues past its natural ending point. When the film eventually ends, however, this sense disappears, and an even more emotional final scene ends up wrapping up the entire work perfectly.
A film dedicated to "those whose brains decompose before their heart", it is a meditative reflection on mortality and the effects of senility, a family portait worthy of Bergman and Tarkovsky. It is not a traditional Noe film, and perhaps that is its best trait, what makes it probably his best film to date.