Review: Unrelenting 'Climax' tests patience

The latest from Gaspar Noé just doesn't know when to stop, but that's the point, maybe?

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
A scene from "Climax."

The films of Gaspar Noé are such a striking, visceral experience that you see them once and you never want to see them again. 

"Climax" is no different, but it is the director's most difficult endurance test yet. Make it through one sitting and you should earn a badge of merit.  

"Climax" is a sort of free-form choreography piece turned living dance floor nightmare. A group of about 20 dancers is holed up in a building going through an intense dance routine when somebody spikes the sangria everyone is drinking with LSD.  

Noé — whose résumé includes the sickeningly disquieting "Irreversible," the breathtaking "Into the Void" and the guffaw-inducing provocation "Love" — stages scenes of intricate choreo in long, unbroken camera shots that he often shoots from above and sometimes from upside down. His technical achievements are stunning. 

The bass pounds (and pounds, and pounds), affecting the viewer's senses of reality and sanity. The dancers get violent, the scene turns bloody, Noé runs a list of credits in the middle of the film (mostly of things he likes, including Daft Punk, the Rolling Stones and himself) and the bass keeps pounding, and pounding, and pounding.

There's no up or down or right or left in "Climax"; Noé has a way of making viewers feel like they're floating through his environment looking down on what's unfolding from above. In "Enter the Void," he used this effect to mirror the experience of a hallucination. But here, it seems the bad boy is running out of tricks, and he's hammering your skull just to prove he can keep doing it. After awhile, everything goes numb.



Rated R: for disturbing content involving a combination of drug use, violent behavior and strong sexuality, and for language and some graphic nudity

Running time: 96 minutes