Noé Way: Irréversible Gets A 'Straight Cut'
A few days ago, The Playlist announced that Gaspar Noé’s second feature, Irréversible, a whirlwind rape-revenge film presented as an experimental psychological thriller/drama, has a new chronological cut that’s premiering at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
The film, which notably depicts events in reverse order, was infamously controversial upon its release. This was mostly due to its graphic portrayal of violence that many weren’t able to look past. Specifically, the scene where a man is savagely bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher and the uncomfortably disturbing and long-winded (10-minute) long take rape of Alex (played Monica Bellucci), who is not only violated but brutally beaten into a coma by her assailant, caused a stir amongst critics and audiences (who seem to appreciate the film exponentially more than critics).
It goes without saying that Irréversible is not for everyone; Roger Ebert called the film "a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable” — a sentiment many will likely agree with (even a part of us feels that). A far cry from light and easy viewing, Irréversible has remained high on our list of great films you can’t really recommend to just anyone. This is primarily due to its gritty, heinous, and violent subject matter and themes (as mentioned above), which will make even the most depraved cinephile shudder with nausea. However, despite all its provocation and ugliness, we think it has potent things to say about the destructive nature of cause and effect and the hollowness of revenge.
The new cut of the film — known as the “Straight Cut” — isn’t just a simple re-edit, Noé explained in his Venice notes, but a new film entirely, stating that the film’s original cut “remains both the director’s cut and the real version of the film.” The “Straight Cut” was intended to be a special feature for a forthcoming Blu-ray release of the original cut, but once completed Noé realized it was strong enough to stand on its own.
In the introduction to the new version, Noé stated: "Why this film? Because the original was told backwards and many viewers, swamped by the anticlockwise structure of the editing, didn’t understand certain aspects of the story. Presented clockwise, everything is clear and also darker. No dialogues have been cut, nor have any events in the story. Which is why this version is called Straight Cut. Until now, Irréversible was a deliberate puzzle. Now it’s a diptych, like an old record whose B side is the less conceptual mix of the track on side A, but this time with voices that are more audible, rendering the meanings of the words more fatalistic. You will see. Time reveals all things."
Noé stated that cuts have been made to the original to help the linear cut flow more cohesively. “In this clockwise cut, a few passages without dialogues created lulls in the action and it is for reasons of rhythm alone, not any kind of censorship, that they have been removed, making this version five minutes shorter than the original,” he explained.
The largest byproduct of rearranging Irréversible’s chronology is how it gives the “Straight Cut” a completely different tone, which Noé explained in detail.
“Putting the scenes in clockwise order makes it easier to identify with the characters and understand the tale unfolding. The same story is no longer a tragedy, this time it is a drama that brings out the psychology of the characters and the mechanisms that lead some of them to a murderous barbarity,” said Noe. “While Irréversible has sometimes been wrongly perceived as a ‘rape and revenge’ B movie, here the deadly outcome is all the more depressing. The film can be more easily seen as a fable on the contagion of barbarity and the command of the reptilian brain over the rational mind... Removing the anti-clockwise structure, a mentally invasive formal concept, brings out the actors’ performances that much more forcefully. The gentleness or violence of the situations and the emotional states of the characters become even more apparent”
A formal release has yet to be announced, but hopefully, the new cut makes its rounds in cinemas because we’d like to experience this version and how it alters the reading of the narrative. You can check out the trailer for the “Straight Cut” below:
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