Cannes #74- ‘Vortex’ Review
Updated: Feb 8
Gaspar Noé’s Amour
Cult director Gaspar Noé has premiered his most moving work to date which, in an out of competition slot, instantly became the best film of the festival. We have already witnessed, and been moved by, the struggles of an old husband dealing with his sick wife in Haneke’s Amour. Vortex similarly digs into the abyss of the mental and physical decline of an elderly couple, without sparing any detail to the viewers, but ultimately it is not a film about love. Tender and devastating, the vortex of helplessness descends to a terrifying level of realism, a true nightmare most people cannot escape, so sincere that aging becomes more frightening than a serial killer branding a chainsaw.
Forget the sex, drugs, and debauchery that made the virtuoso director an icon- an old couple confronted with the inevitable end of their existence leaves a much stronger impact. The film, dedicated “to all those whose brain will decompose before their hearts”, stars the legendary Dario Argento, who lands his first leading role at 81 years old, while his fictional wife is played by a sensational Francoise Lebrun. Being not an actor, Argento delivers a uniquely naturalistic performance as he embodies the classic stubbornness of elderly men refusing any help in an attempt to reject the fact they’re getting older and more powerless. He has no clue on how to deal with the quick and incessant decay of his wife’s mental capabilities, but he tries so anyways, while the vortex of her memory expands, dragging him away too.
Always prioritising his marked visual style, Noé goes beyond his characteristic playing with frame ratios. From the outset, he casts a line in the middle of the screen, splitting it into halves. Two cameras follow the protagonists simultaneously in real time, in a dance that will shift them from one side of the screen to the other, presenting an innovative way to accentuate their perspective and allowing the audience to discover a genial approach to admire two screens at once. But we are not watching two movies at the same time: these are separate but intertwined lives, that complement each other on screen as much as in their existence. The film is filled with cinematic visual references to film directors: Renoir, Bunuel, Fritz Lang, Kubrick, Godard… With Vortex, Gaspar Noé confirms his rightful place next to them.