(director/writer: Gaspar Noé; cinematographer: Benoît Debie; editors: Denis Bedlow/Gaspar Noé; cast: Sofia Boutella (Selva), Romain Guillermic (David), Claude Gajan Maull (Emmanuelle), Kiddy Smile (Daddy), Souheila Yacoub (Lou), Giselle Palmer (Gazelle), Taylor Kastle (Taylor), Thea Carla Schott (Psyche), Sharleen Temple (Ivana), Lea Vlamos (Lea), Alaia Alsafir (Alaya), Kendall Mugler (Rocket), Lakdhar Dridi (Riley), Adrien Sissoko (Omar), Mamadou Bathily (Bats), Alou Sidibe (Alou), Ashley Biscette (Ashley), Vince Galliot Cumant (Tito); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Edouard Weil, Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua; A24; 2018-France Belgium-in French & English, with English substitles)

Depraved but curiously vibrant druggie musical horror pic.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Madman controversial French provocateur filmmaker Gaspar Noé (“Enter The Void”/”Irrevérsible“) once again goes Marquis de Sade on us in this depraved but curiously vibrant druggie musical horror pic. It’s set in the wintry Alps, in 1996, as members of a mostly French racially diverse international dance troupe are rehearsing in an empty village school for an upcoming European and American tour. When drinking from a punch bowl an acid-laced sangria, which they are unaware is spiked, the dancers have an all-night collective hallucinatory nightmare filled with violence and paranoia. The episodic film, using a free-form narrative and only a one-page outline for a script, is supposedly based on a true urban story that happened as depicted here, if you can believe. It opens as the final credits appear first (at the end the title will pop up onscreen). What follows is a dancer running out of the school in the morning and in a dazed state rolling in the snow. What then follows is the beginning moments for a dance troupe who are going through audition-interviews, as the young dancers are asked questions about dance, their life experience and their sex life. After the interviews the gung-ho dancers go into an energetic three-day rehearsal. The group is led by Selva (Sofia Boutella), who calls for the party at the end of the day of the last rehearsal, and things soon become bizarre and hellish when they realize they’ve been drugged. During party-time Noé and cinematographer Benoît Debie capture all the mental and physical pains the group undergoes–from their screams to their fucking. The visuals are stunning, the party scenes are shocking and sensuality is taken to the excesses. But it had no poignant moments other than when the child called Tito (Vince Galliot Cumant) drinks the bad brew and later one of the dancers frighteningly calls out: “Shit! Tito’s fried!”. It was that kind of disturbing nihilistic film, one not without a way of guiding the viewer to the dark side of a mind-fuck that flirts with beauty and art to in the end giving the mind-blowing looks an audience might say it wants but often can’t stomach when it gets it. The filmmaker has told us he’s into mavericks like Fassbinder and Buñuel, especially in their Querelle and Un Chien Andalou films. At one point he shows us that he has those films on VHS in his personal collection. As he seems to be telling us he’s pushing boundaries like they did and if you don’t like it, watch someone else.