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Gaspar Noé’s Trip Into the “Void”

Gaspar Noé’s Trip Into the “Void” (photo)

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Gaspar Noé is no stranger to controversy, as 2002’s “Irreversible” — and, specifically, its nine-minute single-take depiction of violent rape — firmly established his reputation as a boundary-pushing provocateur. Almost a decade later, he returns to feature filmmaking with this week’s extravagant “Enter the Void,” a similarly audacious work about a teenage drug dealer’s (Nathaniel Brown) post-death experiences as a ghost watching over his stripper sister (Paz de la Huerta) in neon-lit Tokyo.

Utilizing multiple points of view, immersing itself in extended “2001”-style drug hallucinations, and offering up a mélange of sex, violence, spirituality, philosophy and one unbearably harrowing car crash sequence, it’s a film that risks being silly in search of the sublime, and thus provokes unlike anything else this cinematic awards season will have to offer. Shortly after introducing the longer original version of the film at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, Noé spoke about the reasons for creating different cuts, the project’s film noir ancestry, and the illicit substances that most inspired him.

Why the extended layoff between “Enter the Void” and “Irreversible”?

In the case of this one, it was because the movie is quite expensive (as you might have guessed), and because it took a long time to shoot it — there are many, many scenes in the movie, and many things that required a crane and/or visual effects. And also because the movie was not only sexually explicit and very experimental, but also because it’s so full of visual effects that it could not be done for cheap. All these things, plus the fact that we didn’t have famous actors, made the movie kind of hard to finance. Of course, after “Irreversible,” I was proposed many scripts by different producers, but I was really waiting to do this feature, which I had in my mind before “Irreversible.” So I was saying no to many other proposals. I was sticking to my original will.

At the end, Wild Bunch, who had been taking care of the world sales of “Irreversible,” decided to put the money in, and they introduced me to Fidélité, the other company that produced the movie. And also BUF, who did the visual effects, decided to co-produce the movie. So after a few years of waiting, I had the greenlight. Since that moment until now, for four years, I’ve been working almost every day on the movie, and now I’m working on the DVD extras, and I’ve been doing the promotion since last year.

The movie was finished for the first time just before Sundance. The copy that was shown in Cannes last year was a work-in-progress on high-definition, but at the time it was not finished at all.

09202010_EntertheVoid3.jpgA 137-minute cut of the film will be released theatrically here in the States, but there’s a longer version (which I saw at Lincoln Center in August) which clocks in at 160 minutes. What compelled you to also assemble a director’s cut?

Actually, it’s nothing like a director’s cut. There’s one cut that was my original cut — that’s the version that has been released in France and now in Germany, and almost all over Europe. But I signed a contract saying that if the movie went over 2 hours and 20 minutes, I had to deliver a shorter version. So I found a solution that we could pull out a whole 17-minute segment toward the end of the movie, and the movie would still work. I reedited the negative lab rolls in a way that the movie was made up of nine reels, but you could pull out reel number seven, and go directly from reel six to reel eight. Actually, that particular reel doesn’t have anything controversial. It starts just after the abortion scene, and ends when the sister is throwing the ashes in the sink. Mainly what you miss is that whole part of the movie where he [Nathaniel Brown’s Oscar] wakes up at the morgue and thinks he’s alive, but they tell him no, you’re just dreaming.

I reconnect with both versions. The shorter version was just a request from the American distributor. And in England, they’re going to release both. They think it’s maybe going to be more commercial, and also people might enjoy the reduced version and then might want to see the extended version, which is the original version, on VOD or on DVD. Sometimes having two versions makes it even more commercial because people who like it want to see both.

I know in France, they proposed to me, “Why don’t we release the shorter version in France and then put the director’s cut on DVD?” I said no, it’s not the director’s cut. But I want the two versions to come to DVD. And in France, it’s the opposite. On the DVD, we’re going to add the shorter version as a bonus.

Did “Irreversible”‘s controversial reputation, and the fact that “Enter the Void” also features explicit material, make it easier or harder to get the new film made?

The fact is that “Irreversible” was a commercial success. And today, the only reason I could start “Enter the Void” was because of the commercial success of “Irreversible.” I don’t know how this one is going to do in the long term. What people like and some other people don’t like about this one is that it’s more conceptual and more experimental. But I don’t think it’s controversial at all. The controversy that comes from this movie deals mostly with some visual effects or sound effects that put you in an altered state of perception. It’s not so much about the images that are contained, but how they play with your senses.

The best and worst response I got from the movie is that when you come out, you feel stoned. And people who like being stoned enjoy the movie, and people who don’t do drugs or don’t drink alcohol dislike the movie because they feel like someone has been playing with their mind.

09202010_EnterTheVoid5.jpgWere there any particular drugs that influenced the film’s hallucinogenic sequences?

Most movies created with drugs are mostly conceived with cocaine, speed or opiates. Then there are a few movies that have been trying hard to reproduce what an altered state of consciousness under mushrooms is like. But I’d say 99.9% of the movies fail because it’s really hard. Since I’ve been thinking about the project, each time I would see a psychedelic movie, or each time I would smoke or whatever, I would try to think about how it could be done in a better way, and how it could be done in a more accurate way. To transcribe those experiences into a flat screen.

Some people who’ve been doing DMT complained to me that the DMT scenes are getting close [to the actual experience], but at the same time very far, because the actual patterns one sees are more geometrical, and that they move much faster than those in the film. But it’s hard, it’s really hard. I’ve tried my best, but I guess in many ways Kenneth Anger got closer to an LSD experience with “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” or Jordan Belson with his short films than I got with this one. This one is more of a narrative movie trying to play with the senses.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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