Review: Climax

Score: A-

Director: Gaspar Noé

Cast: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Kiddy Smile, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rated: R

One of my favorite types of movies (at least when pulled off successfully) is the "gearshift movie," a term coined by Paul Thomas Anderson. There's not always big twist, but an event occurs on-screen and after that the movie you thought you were watching becomes something completely different. Notable examples include From Dusk Till Dawn, which becomes a vampire movie partway through, and Anderson's own Boogie Nights, which starts as an entertaining look at the porn industry in the 1970s, then becomes a depressing drama after one character's suicide.

The shift in Gaspar Noé's Climax is one of the more dramatic in film history. Imagine if a movie started with the exuberant dance scene from Footloose, then the rest of the movie was Requiem for a Dream. Indeed, the film starts with a group dance rehearsal that's one of the most electrifying things I've seen on-screen in a long time. But what follows is a near real-time descent into drug-induced madness that will scar all these ambitious performers for the rest of their lives (in some cases literally).

What makes Climax such an impressive feat is how it makes you constantly feel whatever energy is present in each scene: The exhilaration of bodies in motion, dancing with abandon. The uncomfortable feeling that something's not right. The claustrophobia and anxiety of not knowing where you are. And then, sheer terror as your friends and colleagues turn violent. This is not a film for those with weak stomachs, not only because of the acts depicted on-screen, but also because of the handheld camerawork, which doesn't even stay upright for a good chunk of the film.

There's not much more I can say without venturing into spoiler territory, since it's best to go into the film blind. But I also have to note that if you're not a fan of Noé's stylish, provocative, "let me see if I can shock you" shtick, this one's not going to win you over. But if you're a fan of movies where you have absolutely no idea what will happen from one scene to the next, Climax is a trip you'll want to take.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.