Portrait of a Female Drunkard in some ways aptly describes Ottinger’s film as it assesses the demise of an unnamed, unspoken woman on a mission to drink herself to death, but in others it takes away and prevents us from expecting the unsettling surrealism that much of the film utilises throughout. Yet, such is the way Ottinger plays with her unsettling vision that much of what we see will not fully strike the viewer until long after viewing as she drifts in and out astutely of investigating the admittedly narrow structure of someone trying, as we might assume, to drink away significant pain whilst constructing many cinematic ironies throughout.
One scene in which our titular figure is seen binging on cognac at a startling pace as a group of unrelated ladies – who appear throughout – discuss the statistics surrounding alcoholism particular resonates with me. It, alongside the final sequence which displays our figure done and ultimately ignored by those around her, exhibits astutely what Ottinger’s film very clearly represents. Even more so, the effect on the viewer is driven by a strange poignancy.
This woman’s problem may have been clear, but her inevitable solution was even clearly. Ottinger succeeds because of that: she’s made a film worthy of pure existentialism, but also one with a strong importance due to how it manifests statements of irony and then drops them like a bomb straight onto the viewer’s lap. What a strange, unsettling, beautiful work.
From the misogynistic rape of Irreversible to the drug-induced psycho nightmares of Enter the Void, there’s no denying that the weight of Gaspar Noe’s work is identified with explicitness. None of it purely exists to drive these messages of distress and hate – in the case of I Stand Alone notably – down the throat of the viewer, but more as a way of explaining the negativity within our world without ever covering it up.
It’s this thinking that will help you to defend Noe’s latest journey Love – if you need to – but really away from the aesthetic elements and how the director guides the viewer down darkened hallways of the characters both physically and mentally, much of what is contained with Love exists in a different universe to one illustrated in Irreversible or Enter the Void. It’s here instead that Noe chooses to switch to analysing the more sensual and sexually driven attributes, which are explored extensively to near definition, of his figures.
More importantly, much of Love’s success is based around the director’s constant swooning and adoration for the impact of memory and its influence on love. He uses the nostalgic emotion of his male figure to discover this sensuality between himself and his love, frequently manifesting sequences which although appear realistic, there’s always this sense of perfection coming from how Noe uses the dream-like state of opium to heighten the passion and and raw provocative nature of everything.
Even more so, Noe uses the veneer of the 3D technology to accomplish this, but rarely uses it in the conventional way. Instead Noe chooses to use it as more of a way to reign the viewer in, drawing them into the drama by making certain images – notably the final shower sequence – a literal glass window we could be watching live. It’s that voyeuristic quality which makes Love the experience it is: making the viewer feel like a forbidden onlooker and a participant in the drama at the same time. The 3D here is essential.