French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced... Read allFrench dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.
But whew. If you appreciate film or dance, you are going to be blown away by this masterpiece. This is "Step Up" on crack cocaine.
A group of young people who subscribe to an underground dance culture meet for a three-day weekend of intense rehearsal. On the final night, during their closing party, someone spikes the sangria, and well....best not to say much more.
The first 45-60 minutes of the film are made up of impeccably choreographed dance sequences that had my eyes glued to the screen like I had just rail-lined a bunch of Ritalin. Some may call this "boring" but I found it to be electrifying and mesmerizing. The music in the film is constant, like you're watching it in a nightclub instead of a theater. Electronic powerhouses such as Thomas Bangalter, Giorgio Moroder, and Aphex Twin contribute to the dazzling soundtrack. After the first dance sequence, which lasts about 10-15 minutes, I wanted to stand up and applaud. Then I forgot that I was in a movie theater.
I especially enjoyed the cast of characters, which reminded me so much of my days doing musical theater in high school. If you've done performing arts in either high school or college, you will appreciate "Climax" on an entirely different level. The awkward politics of being in such a troupe come out in full force -- while everyone is generally nice to one another, rivalries and furious envy exist in the shadows, in addition to cutthroat attitudes and the occasional best friend / power couple dynamic. When things go wrong after the sangria is spiked, these politics are blown up into a larger than life spectacle. It was a neurotic joy to watch unfold.
And boy do things get wild. The key theme once the action begins is pure, unadulterated panic. Gaspar Noé's trademark direction brings us back to the chaotic, irregularly lit sequences seen in "Irreversible." The action is so dense. Some keep dancing. Some commit acts of violence. Some have passionate sex on the dance floor. Your eyes and senses are overwhelmed and you have no idea where to look, until a fast camera pan takes you to a completely different part of the room.
Speaking of which, the cinematography is top notch (although that's a running theme in Noé's repertoire). You've got all kinds of shots here -- dutch angles, long cuts that contribute to the chaos, even slow inversions that make you feel as if you are in a fun house at the Jersey Shore. It's incredibly disorienting, nauseating, and a whole lot of fun.
While watching, I also noticed a lot of similarities to Aronofsky's "Black Swan." If you enjoyed that one, definitely check out "Climax."
The ending of the film seems less complete than it should, but it's really no big deal, and does not spoil or ruin the rest of the film.
This is one roller coaster I'd happily ride again, and I'd say it is destined to become a midnight cult classic. Keep on dancing.
- Mar 9, 2019