02 October 2009

Skandies: Best Films of the Decade, #15



Irreversible (2002, Gaspar Noé)
originally placed: #1, 2003.

30 comments:

Michael said...

.sklof, gniog eciN .raeppa lliw ti hcihw no nwodtnuoc edaced-eht-fo-tseb ylno eht si siht teb I .denaw t'nsah ELBASREVERRI rof msaisuhtne taht ees ot dalg m'I

eeL ekiM said...

.stnemmoc drawkcab gnidaer etah I

Michael said...

Jesus, skandie voters have some nihilistic preoccupations these days, judging by the 20th-15th best films. Irreversible? Zodiac? That cannibal movie? When are they going to bring the fun?

Oh well, I guess we have nothing to worry about.

Michael said...

(different Michael, BTW)

Nictate said...

.ti evoL !nmad toH ?nema na teg I naC

Josh said...

Yay, best rape scene of the decade! Only in the Skandies.

md'a said...

Oh good, more inane rape discourse. Just what the world needs right now. Amazing how that subject sets people off. I don't recall you sarcastically citing Zodiac for "best murders of the year!" Oh, right, you voted for that one yourself.

Michael Casey said...

Mike's faslifiability argument is important here, albeit in reverse (yeah yeah). How could a movie that shows a graphic rape scene *not* be trying for shock value? If you think Schindler's List is a good film, that doesn't mean that you think that all graphic portrayals of the Holocaust are automatically High Art, just that that particular film is good.

Brian said...

Coincidentally, MORE INANE RAPE DISCOURSE is the name of my band's sophomore album.

I actually have a qualm about that scene that has nothing to do with shattered-monocle concern-trolling. You may have heard it before, but here goes. Due to the movie's structure we don't know anything about Bellucci's character when she meets her fate in that tunnel -- we are meeting her for the first time. Therefore the scene, for me, wasn't nearly as horrifying as it was intended, because, at the risk of sounding like a heartless bastard, this was just some random woman getting raped. Sure, it was awful, but it wasn't awful in a way I had any emotional connection to. Ditto the sex-club scene. The brutality is shocking, of course, but it's not shocking in a way that means anything, except retroactively. The structure is self-defeating.

I'm sure you'll fire back about how I missed the point. (I actually think I got the point, I just think the point was made in a self-defeating way.) But just wanted you to know there are objections to the rape scene that go beyond simply getting up in arms about the representation of rape itself.

Robert Fuller said...

Rape rape rapity rape rape.

It's strange that the two best movies on this list so far (Ghost World and Irreversible) are both movies that would have been like 11 or 12 on my Top 10 of their respective years. Still waiting for a truly great film.

md'a said...

Well, Robert, you may be waiting forever, since it's pretty clear that your taste and that of the August Voting Body are hardly in sync. I only voted for one of the six films revealed so far, but consider four of them great. (Denis and Fincher are the exceptions.)

Robert Fuller said...

That implies that the August Voting Body has just one, uniform taste. And judging by some of the comments, it seems that some of its members aren't in sync with it, either. Which is a good thing. It's much more interesting this way.

Vadim said...

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I'm fine with this: not a movie I would have chosen personally, but certainly miles better than most people would give it credit for. This is fine. This is why I enjoy the Skandies.

That said, over ZODIAC? Nah. Never.

Josh said...

Mike, if you can see the difference between a movie like Zodiac (which uses murder obliquely to get at obsession) and Irredeemable (which uses rape and violence explicitly to get at...an obvious point about time's arrow? what?), then we don't really share similar planets.

Josh said...

(whoops; can't, not can)

Victor said...

Josh:

Here is what IRREVERSIBLE is getting at:

http://vjmorton.wordpress.com/2004/02/08/2003-top-10-number-5/

md'a said...

Robert: Obviously the AVB doesn't march in lockstep (witness the next paragraph of this comment), but to the extent that we agree on which films are the best of the last ten years, clearly we ain't agreeing with you. And aren't likely to suddenly start, is what I'm saying. I know there are individual voters who wouldn't be thrilled with the overall results either—not sure we've hit a Dan Sallitt favorite yet.

Josh: That the violence in Zodiac is oblique isn't really the point—I just chose that film for its proximity in the countdown, and certainly there are plenty of equally extreme horror films that you love and would defend. The question is whether Irreversible employs its extreme violence to a worthwhile end, and there we just disagree. Waz, Theo, Victor and myself, among others, have all written at length about what we think the film is about. (Victor just posted a link to his review literally while I was typing that sentence!) If you want to dismiss all of that, that's Bobby Brown's prerogative, but sneering "best rape scene of the decade!", as if the film's champions get some sick pleasure from the spectacle is unfair. I haven't watched Irreversible in six years because I'm not sure I can take that scene again.

Nictate said...

This take on Irreversible captures the film's power really well (MD'A posted this link via AVclub.com awhile back):

http://leonardo.spidernet.net/Artus/2386/irrevers.htm

Robert Fuller said...

Just because I disagree with the bottom six doesn't mean I'm going to disagree with the entire top 20 (and it's not that I wholeheartedly dislike the bottom six, either: there are two I really like a lot, two that I have mixed feelings on, and one I haven't seen). I'm not really sure what you're basing that assumption on.

Josh said...

Sure, I was being sarcastic. But I truly don't believe this film belongs on any list. And, with all respect to friends I admire, I DO think the pleasures you derive from it--best of decade; stunned; whatever they are--ARE deeply questionable ones or minor (maybe not sick). I've read and reread all the defenses. It's either a sophomoric "the world is shit" admiration of stringent "purity" (totally high school), or an obeisance to formal gimmickry that Skandie too often has a boner for (e.g. MEMENTO).

You'll have to excuse me, because I just saw AFTERSCHOOL based on your recommendations, and it's the same immature bullshit posing as significance -- this time at least made by a kid. (What's Noe's excuse?) Plus, I interviewed Spike Jonze yesterday and it was like talking to a little boy. Won't the real adults step up?

md'a said...

You realize you sound like Bosley Crowther, right? What would the young Josh Rothkopf, poring eagerly through the pages of the Psychotronic Film Guide, think of this dude bewailing the absence of maturity on today's movie screens? How many of your favorite horror films were attacked on the same grounds?

In any case, I think all three of the films you mention—Irreversible (which I didn't vote for, but am not unhappy to see here), Memento and Afterschool (both of which I did vote for)—have a great deal to say about the human condition, or whatever pompous phrase you prefer. Campos tackles the key subject of our age, viz. the search for something genuine in a world where everything is now carefully orchestrated. Nolan's "gimmicky" masterpiece only addresses the very nature of every single action we take in life, and the degree to which our motives are unknown even to ourselves. And my take on Noé's film isn't "the world is shit"—I think it's a challenging and productively discomfiting exegesis on rationality vs. instinct, and have said repeatedly that the film's key scene is the subway conversation that nobody else ever mentions, the subject of which serves as a sort of horrific counterpoint to what follows/precedes it. You can disagree, you can hate the film, have at it. But to whatever degree my own admiration is "deeply questionable," those are questions I ask of myself.

Michael said...

There's also the question of formal innovation. This film takes visceral avant-garde techniques that have been characterized as "violent," or at least "aggressive," and places them in the context of a narrative about aggression. Lots of filmmakers swipe from the avant-garde, but Noe is clearly thinking about "La Region Centrale," "The Flicker," et al. That's not nothing.

Josh said...

I can question your admiration too. (And Victor *is* defending the movie from a "world is shit" perspective.) Honestly, Mike, I don't like the psychotronica I loved when I was 13 in the same way; maturity isn't such a bad thing -- trust me. Call me a Bosley Crowther, but you misrepresent him. And you keep on bringing up my love of horror like it's some kind of Achilles' heel, but your analogy makes zero sense. I could make all the same claims IRREVERSIBLE fans are making for the SAW series: pure, vitriolic, violent, amoral, formally accomplished, essentially about choice and determinism (and, as a bonus, socially significant since it was a massive box-office phenomenon). SAW is *the* emblematic franchise of the last ten years. But notice I didn't put it on my Skandie ballot. I thought we were counting down "bests." In short, and summing up: The things you admire in IRREVERSIBLE do not equal "good" to me. I see the movie as an arty, less accomplished SAW.

md'a said...

I could make all the same claims IRREVERSIBLE fans are making for the SAW series: pure, vitriolic, violent, amoral, formally accomplished, essentially about choice and determinism

I'd like to see you defend the original Saw—the only one I've seen—as either amoral (from what I understand, the entire series concerns bad people being forced to atone for past misdeeds) or formally accomplished (bwahahahaha). But the comparison is ludicrous in every respect, really. Among a million other things, it's highly significant that Irreversible front-loads its alleged shock tactics; the entire second half of the movie is not just wince-free but increasingly blissful. That's hardly how exploitation flicks operate. (Saw the first is basically just an hour and a half of Cary Elwes "weeping like a little girl," per S. Tobias, while we wait for one or both prisoners to resort to desperate self-amputation.)

In any case, I'm not trying to persuade you that Irreversible is a good film. That's clearly not possible. (Persuading you, I mean.) I just resent being told that I've misplaced my moral compass or whatever because I find value in it that you don't.

Josh said...

IRREVERSIBLE is precisely an exploitation movie (and lacking a proper catharsis, an inferior one to, say, BLOOD FEAST), just one with a reverse gimmick in that it gives you the ugliness first, then sexes up. (Hoberman also called it a sour kind of exploitation movie; his slam is available at Metacritic)

The SAW franchise actually becomes more interesting in 2 and 3, when Jigsaw's cracked "morality" reveals itself as a sham. (Meanwhile, you left the theater and the papers were full of Abu Ghraib.) Scott's "little girl" line always makes me laugh, but these torture sequences are undeniably brilliant in a technical sense. They sure work on audiences.

You can't convince me. But if you resent a "moral compass" critique (did I say that?), let's just leave it at the ones I did make: pretentious, immature, one-dimensional, pseudoprofound, sophomoric. And not as significant as SAW.

md'a said...

But if you resent a "moral compass" critique (did I say that?)

Not in those words, but I don't know how else I was meant to interpret being told that the pleasures I derive from the film are "deeply questionable." Unless you would actually say the same of something like, say, Beeswax (to name a totally innocuous film that I like and you don't).

Your other criticisms are fine. I disagree with all of them, but such is subjectivity.

Josh said...

We'll leave it at that. One day I'll at least understand how the words "pleasure" and IRREVERSIBLE can be used in the same sentence. But until then, this whole exchange is very emblematic of the Skandies -- and why I enjoy it. Bring on the next film!

Anonymous said...

I think we're forgetting the fundamental issue at hand! Does Irreversible in fact have the best rape scene of the 2000's? Is it really better than Dogville's?

Alex said...

I think it trumps Dogville, and could be considered a candidate along with [spoliers?] A Ma Soeur!, Baise-Moi, and my pick Twentynine Palms for tops of the decade. (Oh those wacky French New Extremists.) (Not sure where to fit Lilya-4-Ever, though, and inclusion of Raw Deal: A Question Of Consent would be pretty subjective.)

Josh:
SAW is *the* emblematic franchise of the last ten years.

Hope that this is speaking strictly from a horror genre perspective; this can't be considered the emblematic film franchise in from a decade that brought us the Lord Of the Rings trilogy, or even the three pared-down Bourne pictures. From the realm of horror, yeah, I'd concede Saw would be crowned this title due to its fleeting cultural significance.

The SAW franchise actually becomes more interesting in 2 and 3, when Jigsaw's cracked "morality" reveals itself as a sham. [...] these torture sequences are undeniably brilliant in a technical sense. They sure work on audiences.

Personally, I've found the Saw franchise becoming inexorably inane -- the last two entries in particular are basically worthless -- as the scripting becomes increasingly enamoured and boxed-in by the saga's ludicrous bullshit mythology. The various torture sequences in the Saw series, to me, reek of desperation as each franchise entry attempts to outdo its predecessors; they pale in comparison to the sleek, inventive and deliciously playful Goldberg-ian variations in the Final Destination series. The two franchises make for a good contrast -- while the Saw films have become increasingly bogged down upon delving into the world and philosophies of Jigsaw: Man/Myth/Legend, the FD series improved upon being liberated from the portentous Tony Todd-based mumbo-jumbo that dominated the first film. (The traffic accident setpiece in the second film is genuinely spectacular.)

Josh said...

I genuinely love the Final Destination series -- and am on record as finding it very timely, especially regarding free-floating fear culture. But no franchise speaks more to the trashy, bring-it-on torture moment of the Bush years as SAW. Not Lord of the Rings (sort of a throwback to Langian epicness), not Bourne.