'Lux Æterna' review: A stylish nightmare that's over before it starts

The latest from Gaspar Noé comes in only half-cocked.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's been 20 years since Gaspar Noé shocked audiences with the graphic, difficult-to-stomach "Irréversible," and he's since made a series of titillating films ("Enter the Void," "Love") designed to push, poke and prod filmgoers (and, in the case of 2018's "Climax," outright punish them). 

Cinema's bad boy is back with "Lux Æterna," which at just 51 minutes seems like a sketch more than it does than a fully-fleshed out statement. It takes moviegoers behind the scenes of a chaotic film shoot, but wraps suddenly just as things start to get interesting.  

Abbey Lee, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Mica Argañaraz in "Lux Aeterna."

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Béatrice Dalle play versions of themselves, discussing their careers at length while on the set of a film about witch burnings. Karl Glusman, star of "Love," is on set as a young hanger-on trying to get Gainsbourg's attention so she can star in his next project. Others mill about as complaints are logged by anyone to anyone who will listen about how messy and unprofessional the shoot is going.

When it's time for Gainsbourg to get on the stake, Noé stages a full-fledged visual freakout, with rapid fire flickering blues, greens and reds designed to make your corneas spasm. (The film carries a warning that it could trigger viewers with photosensitive epilepsy, and it should not be taken lightly.) 

And there's not much more to it than that. Noé uses split screens that often overlap into one another, and he inserts passages about the importance of filmmakers protecting the boldness of their vision. For Noé, that's never been a problem. But "Lux Æterna" feels like half an idea, and in turn, only half a movie. 

'Lux Æterna'


Not rated: language, nudity

Running time: 51 minutes

In theaters

Lux Aeterna (not rated) 

Cinema bad boy Gaspar Noé returns with his latest, a half-concept about a chaotic film set. It feels like a DVD extra rather than a standalone film. (51 minutes) GRADE: C (in theaters)