We've seen several reviews of Gaspar Noé's Love, a mainstream movie shot in 3D and featuring a decent amount of hardcore material, and frankly, we're confused. Sure, most of them are wowed by the shot where Murphy (Karl Glusman), the protagonist (we refuse to call him a "hero"), aims the tip of his cock directly at the camera and cums (in 3D), and are equally impressed by the other generally brief hardcore scenes (though one called a vaginal penetration "a nightmare penis-slit shot"), but the reviews have universally focused on comparing Love to Noé's prior film works, or or his use of 3D, or the apparent superficiality of the storyline.
But perhaps it's because AVN is in the business of chronicling the adult entertainment industry, which in part entails dealing with the personalities and philosophies of many adult performers and their fans, that the underlying theme of Love is brought into sharp context: Noé is clearly chronicling the cultural clash between someone who's been raised in a culture that's incredibly fucked up about sex (that's U.S.!) and one that's learned to take sexuality more in stride, like Noé's native France.
First, a short synopsis of the rather convoluted plot, which ping-pongs between present and past with abandon. Sorting all that out, the film revolves around Murphy, a would-be filmmaker from the U.S. who comes to Paris to study film, and winds up meeting Electra (Aomi Muyock), an artist in her own right, at a party, whereupon the two strike up a relationship. Eventually, Murphy's jealousies drive Elektra away, so he takes up with the pair's former neighbor in their apartment building, Omi (Klara Kristin), whom Electra once invited into her and Murphy's bed for a bit of fun. As it happens, Murphy also fucked Omi alone while Electra was out of town; Omi gets pregnant from the encounter, and after Electra leaves him, Murphy moves in with Omi and their child—quite vocally (at least internally) hating every moment of it.
Dissection of the plot is made more difficult, however, by the disordered time sequences, so for instance, although Omi is a fairly important character in the film, her presence is barely seen after about the first 20 minutes of this 137-minute visual essay. Interestingly, her banishment from the latter 85 percent of the action comes just after she says to Murphy, who's busy ruminating on how shitty his life is without Elektra, that "you take care of your past; I'll worry about our future"—and goes in the other room to take care of their child.
But psychologically and culturally, Murphy is the most interesting character in this essentially three-person drama, and we suspect that he's meant to represent the immaturity and sexual hypocrisies so common in American teen and adult males. For example, though Murphy claims to love Elektra solely and deeply—at one point when he's in the shower with her, he says, "I will never let anything come between us"—whenever any other woman in this film makes a play for him, Murphy bares hesitates a moment before finding a place where the two of them can fuck. But of course, when Elektra goes off with her former boyfriend, an art gallery owner played by Noé himself, Murphy throws a fit—and when he learns that she's had a couple of other lovers as well, he's ready to break things off with her, incapable of facing his own culpability in the sexual dishonesty game.
Elektra, on the other hand, is sexually more free than Murphy, but not in what Americans would interpret as a "slutty" way. She's interested in sexual exploration, and even arranges for herself and Murphy to attend a swing party where couples and other combinations have sex with each other in public rooms—a sight that makes Murphy nervous (and jealous at the attention participants pay to Elektra)... but not so nervous that he doesn't take one of the young lovelies into the restroom for a quick in-out. Elektra also invites over a transgendered woman for a threesome, but Murphy can barely look at the potential partner's face, much less her cock, and the would-be tryst ends in failure.
Murphy's sexual and emotional hang-ups, both subtle and overt, are salted all the way through this movie, beginning almost with the opening scene where Murphy and Omi are in bed together, she giving him a handjob, him fingering her pussy, when Murphy gets a call from Elektra's mother saying she hasn't heard from her daughter in two months, and she's worried. This starts Murphy obsessing about Elektra again (though we're reasonably sure he's never stopped obsessing about her since their break-up), and he decides to try to find out what happened to her, especially because the last time they saw each other, he was pounding at her apartment door and loudly professing his undying love for her while she was inside doing a shitload of cocaine with her artistic buddies and shouting at him to go away.
The point is, most if not all of Love's reviewers have missed Murphy's fucked-up psyche as the engine that drives this character study. The one that comes closest is The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern, who quotes Noé about his characters' motivations.
"The movie’s melancholic because it’s about a passion that fails, and about how quickly you can lose the thing that you loved the most in life," Noé explained. "Accidents happen in life where everything can fall apart. Maybe for people that are religious, they’ll attach a dirty word to this movie, because it’s their vision of hell, but for other people this type of behavior is normal," adding, "I relate to this story, and when I was editing it together, it’s the first time in my life that I cried at these images I’d created. I thought it was so sad."
It is sad that for many, "this type of behavior is normal"—but it's mainly a sadness of the protagonist's own making, and those who've managed to shake the timeworn concepts of jealousy and "fidelity for thee but not for me" will likely find Love to be incredibly tedious—even as they recognize some of their friends or even their former selves in Murphy.
P.S.: The 3D effects really aren't that great, as the characters are rarely shown in any setting that allows a decent depth of field between them and the background. Sad.
P.P.S.: The film is being distributed in the U.S. by the group Alchemy—and we couldn't help but notice that during Love's three-day run at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, there was no sign of a 2257 notice anywhere, though all hardcore films shown in the U.S. are required to carry them. Looks like another case of the law applying to we (the adult industry) but not to thee (Hollywood).
Pictured: Murphy (Karl Glusman) and Elektra (Aomi Muyock).