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  Lux AEterna High Stakes
Year: 2019
Director: Gaspar Noé
Stars: Béatrice Dalle, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Abbey Lee, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Clara Deshayes, Felix Maritaud, Frederic Cambier, Karl Glusman, Lola Perier, Loup Brankovic, Luka Isaac, Maxime Ruiz, Mica Arganaraz, Paul Hameline, Stefania Cristian
Genre: Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Beatrice (Béatrice Dalle) has decided to turn director and the time she made a film where her character was a witch burned at the stake has really stuck with her, so she is making a highly stylised movie based on that. The climactic sequence will feature a burning of a number of actresses, lead among them Charlotte Gainsbourg, who she is currently having a chat with in the green room of the studio they are working in, and they are truly enjoying each other's company. But Béatrice is growing paranoid that her producer is attempting to sabotage her directorial efforts in order to boot her off the project; fair enough, she is an uncompromising personality, but is she actually doing so badly she needs to be fired?

Lux AEterna was a comparative trifle from controversial director Gaspar Noé, lasting fifty-one minutes all told, that was dreamt up as an extra-long advertisement for Yves Saint-Laurent, which meant that his usual excesses were reined in this time. Nevertheless, he found a method of rendering it a challenge to watch, especially in the latter stages as he appeared to be deliberately encouraging epileptics and migraine sufferers to fall ill through the power of his visuals. That said, those visuals consisted mostly of flashing colours on the screen and a grating electronic tone, which begged the question was he purposefully sabotaging the accessibility for his patrons rather than making it that much more audience friendly?

A toned-down Gaspar Noé was not what anybody wanted, it had to be pointed out, so who knows, perhaps YSL were pleased with the results, yet despite their clothes on display throughout, the director did not seem too interested in them. What this was a study of female breakdowns - emotional, mental - and the manner in which they were fuel for the movie industry, so after a lengthy sequence with Béatrice and Charlotte yakking, the plot begins in earnest and the victimisation that women have suffered in the name of entertainment and art becomes centre stage. Specifically Béatrice's justified paranoia about her being forced off her own film - all the men seem to be there to drive the ladies up the wall, from the producer to the DP to various hangers-on who all want something from them.

Meanwhile Noé interspersed his action with quotes from his favourite film directors (none of whom were women) as commentary on the storyline or just life in general, as well as a bunch of clips from Carl Theodor Dreyer's Day of Wrath and a bit of Haxan, for the witchy connection. To be honest, these look more compelling than what Noé wanted to achieve, which was to all intents and purposes a film to make the audience sick, assuming they had seen it in a theatrical showing. That was doubtful, its scanty length and highly niche subject matter and presentation meant if you did watch this, it was going to be at home, where it probably would not have the same supposedly vomitous effect. It was entertaining to spend some time with the sparky Dalle, and Gainsbourg was a grounding presence until she, too, went off her rocker, but this was half-strength Noé posing as full strength and you could tell he was in this one for the money, no matter what his cast might have believed with the messing around with split screen.

[This is available on Arrow Player. Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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