• Climax (Lionsgate) DVD Review

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: May 28th, 2019.
    Director: Gasper Noe
    Cast: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Giselle Palmer
    Year: 2018
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    Climax – Movie Review:

    Set in the mid-nineties, Gasper Noe’s 2018 film Climax opens with a short scene in which a woman who we later learn is named Lou (Souheila Yacoub), visibly bloodied, crawls through the snow. From there, we watch, on an analogue TV, videotaped interviews in which a dance choreographer Selva (Sofia Boutella) and a DJ nicknamed Daddy (Kiddy Smile), who are both off camera, interview selected candidates for a dance troupe that they’re assembling. On each side of the TV are stacks of books and VHS tapes – pay attention to those.

    From there, we see the troupe in action. They dance – and then they dance some more – performing a wildly choreographed avant garde piece that does not want for blatant sexual overtones. When the piece is finished, the group’s manager, Emmanuelle (Claude Gajan Maull), brings out some sangria and sends her young son Tito (Vince Galliot Cumant) to bed in the back room. As the celebration gets started, we learn about some of the different characters – Taylor (Taylor Kastle) and his sister Gazelle (Giselle Palmer), straight edge Omar (Adrien Sissoko), ultra-promiscuous David (Romain Guillermic), the aforementioned Lou, and quite a few of the others. Things are going fine at first. Yeah, there’s a bit of trash talking and some cattiness and it’s clear that quite a few of these players want to fuck quite a few of the others but it doesn’t initially feel dangerous. Then someone pisses on the floor, things get strange and the whole group realizes that someone has put LSD in the sangria they’ve been drinking copious amounts of for the last couple of hours.

    “God is with us!”

    On the surface, the first half of this movie is just a bunch of assholes dancing but if you pay close attention to both the video introductions and the early scenes where the party gets started, there’s actually quite a bit of character development here and a whole lot of interesting foreshadowing that pays off in the film’s insane second half. And what a second half it is. You don’t have to have had experiences with hallucinogenic drugs to appreciate what Noe’s accomplished here, he makes sure of that. As is typical of his work, unorthodox angels and rotating camera work effectively create a sense of discomfort with the audience, even nausea at times. If the last half of the film is an atrocity exhibition of ever-increasing intensity, so be it, because it is at least a very effective one that keeps you engaged and wondering how this is all going to end.

    Interestingly enough, despite the fact that Noe is bound and determined to take us to Hell (if you think of this as a dance-heavy version of Dante’s Inferno on acid you’re not far off) alongside these characters, moments of genuine tenderness manages to sneak in a few unexpected moments of compassion and sensitivity. These definitely do not dominate the film, but they are there and the movie is more effective for it.

    The whole thing feels like a cinematic exercise in losing control and when viewed with that in mind, it works quite well. Not all of the acting is perfect – Noe worked almost entirely with a cast of dancers rater than profession al actors (Boutella being the big exception here – she appeared alongside Tom Cruise in The Mummy but we won’t hold that against her) but most of the cast and good enough that we’re never taken out of the film. Boutella is excellent in her part; she’s essentially the female lead here and she really turns in an impressive performance.

    Climax – DVD Review:

    Lionsgate brings Climax to DVD in 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen retaining the film’s theatrical aspect ratio. Although they’ve also released the film on Blu-ray, only a DVD was made available for review. The transfer is fine, for the most part. Given that this was shot digitally there’s no grain or print damage to discuss. Colors look good but there are noticeable compression artifacts in most of the darker scenes that are hard not to notice. Otherwise, this is a perfectly fine-looking standard definition offering.

    The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix features forced subtitles for the French language dialogue (which is the vast majority of it, though occasionally a few lines are spoken in English throughout the film). Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided. The 5.1 mix is solid, really spreading out the music quite nicely while retaining proper balance throughout and offering clear dialogue.

    Aside from menus and chapter selection, the disc includes only one extra feature which is a ten-minute interview with actress Sofia Boutella who speaks about her background as a dancer, working with the film’s choreographer, what it was like on set, the impulsive nature of the production which was shot in fifteen days without an actual script, her thoughts on Noe as a filmmaker, some of the these that the picture deals with an a bit more. It’s an interesting piece. None of the extras from the UK release are carried over, sadly.

    Climax – The Final Word:

    Climax takes a bit of time to really go anywhere but once it does, it pays off in that punishing, nihilistic ways that Noe’s work tends to. Performances are uneven but the leads are quite good here, Boutella in particular really shines, while the visuals are consistently insane. Liongsate’s DVD release looks and sounds fine for a standard definition presentation, and while there’s only one extra here, it is at least an interesting one.