Gaspar Noé films with dignity an old couple at the end of their life in “Vortex”

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Present in the ephemeral Cannes Première section in 2021, which brought together filmmakers who had already entered competition in the past but were not selected, Gaspar Noé had presented Vortex coming out Wednesday April 13. A film that stands out from his disturbing, even provocative works, with which he is identified: Irreversible, Enter the Void, Love, Climax… With cult filmmaker Dario Argento, in a leading film role, actress and director Françoise Lebrun, and Alex Lutz, Vortex moves to tears.

An elderly couple lives in their Paris apartment surrounded by the memories of a lifetime: overloaded bookcases, piles of books and records on the floor, and a plethora of posters on the wall. He is a film historian who writes about the links between the 7th art and dreams, she is a retired psychiatrist, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Recluse, they live the last days of their love which has not aged a bit.

When reading the synopsis, one thinks of Love by Mickael Haneke (Palme d’or 2012), where an old couple is also living out their last days. But Vortex tells another story, with a very different visual and narrative approach. What brings the two films together is the extreme sensitivity with which they deal with the same theme. Always in search of an extraordinary image, Gaspar Noé uses this time the split screen (separation of the screen into several planes) which he masters with astonishing virtuosity, by exposing two different points of view on the screen.

The Argento-Lebrun couple functions as if it had always existed. Dario Argento, an actor for the first time, is breathtakingly truthful, and Françoise Lebrun overwhelming. Alex Lutz, who plays their son, is, like every performance, amazingly accurate. A perfect cast, in tune with the subject, the improvised scenario on the set, and the characters. Noah doesn’t write, he has it all in his head. Great art. A fourth character would be the decor of this apartment which seems to have been inhabited for ages. It was actually created entirely in the studio. By its piling up, its accumulations, it is the witness of a life.

Apparently calm, these last days are in fact tormented: a life strewn with storms which is fraying and whose memory is falling apart. That of the psychiatrist, struck by Alzheimer’s disease, and that of a film historian who, by dint of accumulating sources, ends up getting lost. The Vortex of the title refers to this whirlwind behind closed doors experienced by these confined characters with their anger. Gaspar Noé captures it wonderfully, constantly relaunching his story steeped in dignity, up to an ultimate gesture, nihilistic, but not desperate.

"Vortex" by Gaspar Noé (2021).  (WILD BUNCH)

Gender : Drama
Director : Gaspar Noe
Actors : Dario Argento, Francoise Lebrun, Alex Lutz,
Country : France / Belgium / Monaco
Duration : 2h15
Exit : April 13, 2022
Distributer : Wild Bunch

Synopsis : An elderly couple lives in a Parisian apartment overwhelmed with books and memories. He is a cinephile, historian and film theorist who writes a book on the links between the 7th art and dreams. She, a retired psychoanalyst, has Alzheimer’s disease. In love and indispensable to each other, they will live their last days.

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