“Irreversible” (2002) dir. Gaspar Noe

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One of the most disturbing films ever made, Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” contains a classic movie trope (rape and then revenge for the rape), but completely undermines it by telling the story in reverse. Instead of seeing a horrible crime and its aftermath, you see the aftermath first … then the trauma … the events leading up the trauma … and then life when the trauma would not even be conceivable for its characters. The decision to show this sequence of events in reverse is positively devastating. While this film contains scenes of near-unwatchable graphic violence and sexual brutality, the film’s final scene … which is a peaceful scene set in a park with the lead female protagonist … is arguably, the most painful to watch … mainly because we know what’s ahead and it’s unbearable to watch someone who has no idea what physical and psychic devastation lays ahead for them.

“Irreversible” was the most notorious film of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, prompting walk-outs and severe denunciations. I can completely understand this, because the film is one of the most brutalizing cinematic experiences you’ll ever see. But it’s not only thematically ballsy, but artistically so. This is a great, great film, but not a film that you’d want to watch more than once. I would not find fault with anyone who would refuse to watch this on principle. Even if you think you have a strong stomach, “Irreversible” will go beyond what you think you can handle. But don’t let the severe subject matter dissuade you from thinking this is a great film. It is a devastating masterpiece, but please proceed with extreme caution. This is an NC-17 film that makes “Showgirls” look like “E.T.” I’m not kidding at all in saying this.  The film stars internationally renowned actors Monica Belluci and Victor Cassel.

“The Hunger” (1983) dir. Tony Scott

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In my earlier tribute to Tony Scott, I forgot to mention his stunning first film as a director, “The Hunger.” I remember seeing this on HBO late one Saturday night around 1984 or so and this opening sequence was so mind-blowing, I remember running into people at my junior high who saw the same thing (“My God, did you see that weird vampire movie on HBO?”) and were as flabbergasted as I was.   So flabbergasting, that when I heard he was directing “Top Gun,” a needle went off the record in my mind.  Well, he definitely found his commercial niche and while Scott made some wildly entertaining and commercial films (“Last Boy Scout,” “Crimson Tide,” “True Romance,” “Domino”), it would have been interesting to see if he had continued in this artier, less commercial mode. This isn’t the full sequence that features the seduction / sex / murder sequence afterwards, but you can find the longer version on YouTube if you so desire. You can see a lot of influence on Gaspar Noe in this clip.  Highly recommended.