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CLIMAX (2018)

Directed by Gaspar Noé
Written by Gaspar Noé
Starring Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Giselle Palmer, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schott, Sharleen Temple, Lea Vlamos, Alaia Alsafir, Kendall Mugler, Lakdhar Dridi, Adrien Sissoko, Mamadou Bathily, Alou Sidibé, Ashley Biscette, Mounia Nassangar, Tiphanie Au, Sarah Belala, Alexandre Moreau, Naab, Strauss Serpent, Vince Galliot Cumant
Find out more about this film here

I remember seeing the trailer for CLIMAX before a screening of SUSPIRIA and saw the gobs of praise heaped on this film. I found my interest piqued, but never really got around to seeing the film until late September when I was blazing through films to make sure I didn’t miss any horror that might make my best of list for this year. Turns out I wasted my time rushing to see CLIMAX, as I felt while it was a technically interesting movie, the pretention that accompanied it was simply too overpowering. This guaranteed that more than any other well touted horror films of the year, CLIMAX wins for being most likely NOT being on my Best of List.

CLIMAX is a harrowing tale of a dance class at a prestigious school who decide to have a party on their last night with the group. Someone spikes the punch with LSD and everyone goes nuts. That’s it. That’s the movie.

The film begins with a seemingly endless series of interviews with singles and pairs of dancers giving us a crop-dusting of surface character that would hopefully differentiate one spandex clad person from another. The film then cuts to the most thrilling part of the movie, an extended dance sequence set to techno beats that truly is a marvel to experience. Then there group breaks up into pairings and triplets where an ounce of more character interaction occurs. Finally, the last portion of the group is an endless extended uncut take where the camera soars around the warehouse as the dancers succumb to the drugs that they have ingested. The structure of the film is simple, though I’m sure it was extremely difficult to coordinate.

The good; the dance sequence is an engrossing watch. Seeing the gigantic cast work together and transition from one deftly executed routine to another in one take. This is an enthralling sequence that highlights some of the best dancing I have ever seen on screen. These are no doubt talented dancers as they flip, twist, jive, pop, lock, drop, and shake their booties off. While I am no expert in the world of dance, I can definitely recognize when a dance is done well, and this is it.

The bad; pretty much anything else. The main problem with this film is that there are way too many cast members, so keeping track of them is impossible. Sure there is the one with the child, the main girl with the dark eyebrows, her cheating boyfriend, the tall Russian, the poofy-haired sprite, the DJ, and the brother and sister who obviously have an incest vibe going on. But other than that, the twenty to thirty other cast members given “getting to know you” time is just past the bandwidth I am able to retain. Had this been a smaller cast, the way the film crisscrosses in and out of the subplots would have been much easier to follow. When there are twenty or so personalities and that many subplots about each of them, there is just no way to follow them and after a while they all just blend together and eventually it becomes pointless to give a shit about them.

I know that taking oneself too seriously, pomposity, and pretention runs deep in any art school scenario, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun to watch. I found the interviews and the conversations these shallow puddles mumble to each other to be excruciating to endure. These sequences go on endlessly and again, while the point is to give us something to latch onto for later when the bottom drops out on sanity, there are just too many of them to care. Again, I tuned out halfway through the flat interview style scenes of two and three people farting banality to one another and acting as if they are each the belle of the ball when they, in actuality, come off as adults who never got enough attention as children.

Noe does achieve a waking nightmare with the long one take scene of the dancers succumbing to the acid-trip and begin tearing each other apart, fucking their brains out, and making horrible decisions. Yes, this is an effective scene, but man do you have to wade through the self-importance to get there. And while effectively disturbing, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in other films.

In the end, CLIMAX is a bunch of people needy for attention tripping on bad drugs and destroying themselves. Had some of them been interesting or had the director had a sense of when to say when, maybe this might have been an interesting exercise. CLIMAX is an experiment in excess that ultimately blows up in the filmmaker’s face. While I can recognize the work that went into the dancing and the prep necessary to pull off a long take, that doesn’t make for a good film. Not a fan of this one.