Gaspar Noé's 3D sex magnum opus "Love" made its grand premiere at the The Theater At Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles this week. The director himself was there to answer some questions after the film, moderated by KCRW. Here are some things we learned from watching the film and from snippets of Noé's Q&A.
1. Noé cast friends and non-actors, and shot the film on a two-million-dollar budget in just five weeks
Eschewing the use of a professional casting director, he put together an ensemble largely comprised of non-actors, including his friends, his wife, crew members, and interesting people he met at bars and parties (his three main leads, Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin, were cast this way). Casting decisions were finalized just one week before shooting began—Karl Glusman recalls a phone call from Noé in which the director urged him to “ignore his manager and jump on a plane.” Somewhat controversially, Noé named many of his characters after his own family and friends. Noé himself also makes a cameo in the film, as a hotheaded art gallery owner.
2. Love may be Noé’s most tender film to date
There is a distinct and almost surprising lack of violence in the film, especially when compared to Noé’s brutal, decidedly confrontational earlier works such as I Stand Alone (1998) and Irréversible (2002). The film is chaotic, subversive, sensoral and explicit, as one would expect, yet there is a noted tenderness to the graphic love scenes that saves them from seeming gratuitous. They are realistic, naturalistic, necessary to the story. The violence that does occur in the film is of an emotional nature—and is exhibited in a particularly aggressive screaming match between the two main characters that takes place in a moving taxicab following an episode of infidelity. In the vein of the French New Wave filmmakers Noé idolized growing up, he worked with a minimal script, and much of the dialogue in the film was improvised by the actors. In preparation for this scene, leading man Karl Glusman asked leading lady Aomi Muyock to tell him the most hurtful thing a man could ever say to her. Her response, delivered viciously in the film by Glusman’s character, Murphy, caused a palpable reaction in audience members.
3. Noé’s goal for the film was to portray love and sexuality in a realistic way not usually seen in films
He describes having sex as “one of the most natural and most relaxing things on earth, besides swimming and dancing,” noting that most movies either show actors having sex without kissing (as in pornography) or kissing and not having sex (as in the majority of mainstream love stories). “Movies seem to portray a world in which true love isn’t sexual. And that’s a huge lie. Life is erotic,” Noé told Vanity Fair, “I wanted to portray in a narrative film love as I knew it: ecstatic, painful, addictive.”
4. There are funny moments in the film
Noé’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor is keenly felt throughout Love. Though the dark, moody trailer may not suggest it, several scenes had the audience giggling: most notably, a painfully awkward sexual encounter between the main couple and a transvestite, the main character’s decision to name his child Gaspar, and, of course, the most talked-about shot in the film, in which the main character ejaculates directly onto the camera. Lead actor Karl Glusman explains that this shot was filmed at the end of his very first day of shooting, and that he initially “wanted to get right back on the plane.”
5. On the shooting and editing of the film:
Noé’s decision to shoot in 3D sprung from his feeling that intimacy is much more strongly felt in 3D than in 2D. He recalls filming his dying mother on a 3D camera, and the way that the images he captured appeared incredibly lifelike. In a film that centers on passion and sex, he wanted the faces of his characters to appear more touching, more emotional—to have a visceral effect on audience members. Because 3D glasses darken the image onscreen significantly, Noé enhanced the film’s color grading in order to retain the vivid, vibrant colors captured by masterful cinematographer and longtime collaborator Benoît Debie. He also utilizes an editing technique that mimics the blinking of a human eye (a method also seen in 2009's Enter the Void). In Love, though, most of the shots are either static or filmed with a Steadicam, in order to avoid audience members becoming nauseous from the sensory overload of 3D combined with the movements of a handheld camera.
Gaspar Noé's "Love" is now playing in Los Angeles. It will be opening later this week in New York. Text by Annabel Graham