Enter the Void
Written by: Gaspar Noé, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Released in: 2009
A film as vibrant as the neon lights layering it’s Tokyo skyline, the creativity that Gaspar Noé brings to telling the story of a pair of orphaned siblings, one a drug dealer and the other a prostitute, gives Enter the Void’s tremendously edited scenes of debauchery a mesmerizing beauty. From drug trips seen as swaying kaleidoscopic structures and rays of lights flashing across club backlots to the backroom violence of expensive strip clubs, we are taken on a visually splendid tour of the emotional fissures caused by the existences the siblings have chosen. The camera shifts perspective three times, first giving us the brother’s first person viewpoint, blinks and all, before moving us farther back to view his memories from over the shoulder of a growing boy, and finally losing all sense of physicality in favor of becoming akin to a spirit, brushing through buildings on it’s way to examine the inner happenings of a luminous sex hotel.
Written by: John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola
Released in: 1979
The atrocities men commit in the name of war has been a frequently tapped source for filmmakers, and no conflict has proven as rich a well for authentic savagery as Vietnam. Francis Ford Coppola’s idea to adapt the hazy boat ride deep through the Congo in search of a madman from the 1899 book Heart of Darkness into a Vietnam narrative of Martin Sheen’s Willard leading a convoy into Laos to assassinate Marlon Brando’s Kurtz allows the infamous setting to encompass the entire film rather than acting as a backdrop. Throughout the journey, the madness of the jungle builds and warps the men who have fought through it, but it is not until the final act when Willard reaches his target’s compound that true insanity is thrust upon both him and us through haunting lectures on humanity and deranged ethereal visuals. There have been a number of great movies about Vietnam released over the years, but, as Coppola put it, “Apocalypse Now is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam.”
Written by: Arkadiy Strugatskiy, Boris Strugatskiy
Released in: 1979
Rumors of a mystical room that grants the wishes of whoever enters prompts two desperate men to accompany a guide through the treacherous “Zone” in this Russian science fiction milestone. While the Zone’s lush environment and unbound physics provide plenty of visual interest, the film is more concerned with the psychological conflicts the group find between each other through their journey that would prevent their perceived redemption. Thanks to Andrei Tarkovsky’s sparse use of music and focus on sequence shots, the film functions analogous to a dramatic stage play as well as making it a pleasure to watch, and the resulting exchange when the men finally reach the edge of the room feels straight out of a classic tragedy.
Written by: Shane Carruth
Released in: 2013
Shane Carruth’s Primer was an enigmatic, low budget time travel narrative that intrigued festival goers so much back in 2004 as to develop a loyal cult following. Upstream Color is his follow up, and the 9 years he spent crafting it have given us a film that retains the elusive nature of his first venture but distinctly defines itself by its warmth and focus on human connection to such a degree that it’s startling this came from the same mind behind the phlegmatic air of his debut. Despite all the abstract shifts through space and reality Carruth takes, the essence of the film lies in exploring the fragile relationship of two people who have found each other through a shared tragedy. Serenely shot glimpses into the lives of the small cast form the sense of a story, but Upstream Color is an experience defined by the emotions and actions of its characters rather than what they say to each other.
Written by: Harmony Korine
Released in: 2012
A Lite Brite dark comedy of four girls looking for ways to enjoy their spring break, Harmony Korine’s commentary on social obsession with artificial meaning utilizes the cinematographer of Enter the Void to showcase a hedonistic approach taken to the extreme. Florida is a world separate from the girls’ humdrum college reality, a place where the bright pinks and oranges of their swimwear pop off the screen and sobriety is a passé existence. While certainly featuring scenes of their various degenerate acts, Spring Breakers drifts over those moments in as superficial a manner as their content. Once James Franco’s rapper/drug dealer Alien arrives and begins to wax poetic on his achievement of the American dream, all semblance of a “party movie” has been lost, and from there we only descend further into the deformed ideals of a society given nothing but monetary success to aspire to.