Quest Status: 723 / 1000
TSPDT Rank #705
Every review of this movie should start with a warning, so I'll get that out of the way before we go any further. This movie is not for the faint of heart. It contains a 10-minute rape scene and a scene of graphically violent bludgeoning, but these two infamous scenes are really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the raw emotional impact that Irréversible has on the viewer. This impact comes primarily from the fact that the story (a fairly standard rape and revenge story on the surface) is told in reverse: starting from a place of gut-wrenching ugliness and working its way gradually up a breakneck downward spiral... until we find ourselves in a place of beauty, tenderness, and possibilities that seem so close, but are actually impossibly out of reach.
Irréversible was my introduction to Gaspar Noé, the French director behind some of the most provocative and incendiary films of recent decades. I had known of him for a long time, but could never work up the nerve to watch this film - his most acclaimed film by far. Not being a big fan of Christopher Nolan's gimmicky Memento (another reverse chronological order film whose success reportedly secured Noé the funding for this film), I doubted that the same trick would work in service of material which I had heard to be nearly unwatchable in its extended cruelty, no matter how cleverly applied. And indeed, for the first 40 minutes of Irréversible, I found the reverse storytelling clunky and predictable. The exaggerated fury of Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) in their search for the lowlife pimp who raped Marcus' girlfriend Alex (Monica Belluci) seems calculated to make the story clearer to to the viewer - who may find it difficult to follow in reverse.