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'Irreversible' gives new meaning to sick and repulsive

Friday, April 11, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

Run, don't walk, in the opposite direction from "Irreversible," the sickest French/(Freedom) flick ever to pollute a Coalition-of-the-Willing screen.


RATING: Unrated but X in nature for graphic sex and extreme violence

STARRING: Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Albert Dupontel

DIRECTOR: Gaspar Noe

WEB SITE: www.irreversible.com


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It purports to be a kind of horror-crime thriller, set in the seedy sexual underworld of Paris: When a woman is hideously raped, her ex-husband and a psychotic pal seek violent vigilante vengeance. Inspired by "Memento," it's told out of sequence.

At the outset, the two murderous men raid a gay S&M dungeon sex club (named "Rectum") and slay their main suspect by pounding his head off -- literally -- with a fire extinguisher.

That's mild compared to the rape itself, which comes later in an excruciatingly long (15-minute), sickening, graphic depiction. The incessant profanity is mind-boggling, even in subtitle form. It is horribly photographed, the camera swinging back and forth like a pendulum, largely in dizzy darkness. But it is terrifyingly well acted by Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel.

Writer-director Gaspar Noe's prior films include "Sodomites" (1998) and "Une experience d'hypnose televisuelle" (1995), with which I am blissfully unfamiliar. Under the pretense of making us face "brutal reality," he is testing the extremes and the limits of audience tolerance -- how much can we take? But he luridly relishes every vile, prurient moment. It's a virtual porn-snuff film.

In 35 years and 2,000 films, I never left one before the end -- with the technical exception of "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" (1973), when my wife found St. Francis a sissy and physically dragged me from the theater. "Irreversible" represents a personal milestone: It is the first and only film I ever willingly walked out on midway -- in protest and irreversible revulsion.

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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