Director Gaspar Noé on 'Love,' His 3D, Sex-Filled Masterpiece

It’s not often that you see a male orgasm in 3D, but then again, it’s not often that you see a film like Love in the first place. It ignited a flurry of controversy earlier this summer, months before its actual release, with its erotically charged teaser posters, one of which depicted yet another male orgasm.

The film itself is no less controversial and no less erotic, featuring over two hours of intense, popping-off-the-screen sex, a great deal of which is unsimulated, and even more raw emotional drama. But controversy is just what one expects from a film helmed by Gaspar Noé, the director behind psychedelic odyssey Enter the Void and the disturbingly provocative Irreversible. His films are gritty, unrelenting, and so ravishingly beautiful that you can’t look away, no matter how fucked up what you’re looking at may be.

I chatted with Noé shortly before Love’s theatrical release to discuss filming such intense intimacy, finding actors willing to go to the distance, and why he just wants this movie to make you cry.

Actors Carl Glusman as Murphy and Aomi Muyock as Electra.

When did you first realize that you wanted to make the love scenes completely real?

Well that’s the thing, they’re not completely real. But they look completely real. Many of the things depicted are real, but not every single piece of them. At the end of the day, I did not like the fact that it was publicly announced that way. Whether some people have done it for real or not, I actually just wanted to portray passion with the camera, portray the kind of sex with someone you love that makes it so much deeper.

I cannot imagine making a movie about love without portraying the carnal side. But again, not everything is real. A movies a movie, but if you want to make something that touches people, the people have to relate to the images and not notice that something is being played.

How do you feel about the way sex is usually portrayed in film and media?

Well I’m not conservative, but the presentation of sex in which context you can show and which you cannot nowadays is absurd. It’s a very cold way to portray sex on the internet, and has nothing to do with the common real life of most people and the kinds of images you see. And you know what you do and what you don’t do, people are playful and don’t always want to know what’s on the other side of the curtained door.

“I hope they’ll cry watching the movie! It’s supposed to make you cry, because it’s really very sad.”

Did you find it difficult to find cast members willing to accommodate to the demands of shooting unsimulated sex?

No, they’re intelligent. They knew they were making a movie, and they liked my previous movies. All the actors, they had no inhibitions about nudity. They were, again, intelligent, but they were also very playful and really, fully committed. Initially I thought I would get a real couple to portray the main couple, but I didn’t end up finding the right two. That would have been ideal, but the cast we used was the best possible cast.

A chief idea expressed in the film is the idea of making the first film that captures ‘sexual sentimentality.’ What does that mean to you?

This is something that had some part of that expressed at the end of two projects, with many similarities, but this one yes for sure. I would say you can have a certain sex strategy when you’re in love. I don’t feel like dancing or swimming the same way I feel about kissing or hugging. Making love is all part of a game when you’re in love, and we’re usually talking about everything else.

Is there anything in particular that you hope the viewer will take away from Love?

I hope they’ll cry watching the movie! It’s supposed to make you cry, because it’s really very sad.

What was one of the most challenging days on set?

It’s less that I had a challenging day and more challenging of an entire shoot. We had a very short shooting schedule because we had a very low budget, and we had to shoot a very expensive five weeks in Paris. And with the camera equipment, we were very tight on money. Luckily I had a very cool, charismatic actors and a wonderful crew. The result was that the film had to be quickly delivered, and the short times felt very diminishing. But we’re here now, so…

What informed your decision to make the film in 3D?

Well first of all, because I got a grant that didn’t add any cost to the productions. But I really like 3D movies, particularly when the shots are long. I like to watch the enhanced version of an old image. It is amazing. As I was holding the camera I knew I wanted the images to look more interesting as opposed to a standard camera.

I don’t see why 3D is so much more of an issue for some people, because you can see with the naked eye, but you still cannot reconstruct the depth you get with 3D. A lot of people complain that they don’t see the difference when they put on their glasses, but it’s all linked to which kind of purpose you have in mind. Despite this, I really don’t like the glasses. To my eye it makes the images very dark.

Drugs seem to play an important part in both this film and Enter the Void. Do they carry personal significance to you?

It’s important to me that I get the mentality of it. I’ve never been a cokehead. I’ll never be one. The drugs in the movie are portraying the life of today’s youth, a life that’s not about me. While Enter the Void was about a young guy selling drugs to survive, this film is about a guy that wants to become a movie director and he fucked up his whole life and his love with all his drugs. It’s an anti-drug movie, really.

How would you describe your relationship to the cinema?

My relationship to cinema is that I try to be playful, and you try to be trustful to your cast and all your crew. I look at movies as a social issue, and as an extension of the emotion of yourself.

I couldn’t help but feel comparisons to the lead character, Murphy, to you as a filmmaker. Do you see this film as autobiographical in any way? If so, how?

I would say the guy is a mix of what I was and what my best friend was. Which is to say two guys who are musicians and movie directors. And there have of course been girls in my life, but it’s not a precise story based on real events of my life. What I have gone through is very different.

One last question: did you write into the script that Murphy would name his baby Gaspar, after you?

I wrote it into the script, yes. It was a beautiful choice to call the baby Gaspar, and the audience will just have to forgive, for my father. My father never cried, not once, and I used that as a way to honor him.

‘Love’ is in theaters now, get tickets here.

Film stills courtesy of Alchemy.

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