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Cannes Film Festival 2021: Gaspar Noé films with dignity an old couple at the end of their life in “Vortex”

Present in the Cannes Première section which brought together filmmakers who had already competed in Cannes but not selected this year, Gaspar Noé presented Vortex. A film that departs from his disturbing, even provocative, works with which he is identified: Irreversible, Enter the Void, Love, Climax… With the cult director Dario Argento, in a leading role in the cinema, the actress and director Françoise Lebrun, and Alex Lutz, Vortex moves to tears.

An old couple lives in their Parisian apartment surrounded by memories of a lifetime: overcrowded libraries, piles of books, records, numerous posters on the wall. He is a film historian who writes on the links between the 7th art and dreams, she is a retired psychiatrist with Alzheimer’s disease. Reclusive, they live the last days of their love which has not aged a bit.

When reading the synopsis, we think of Love by Mickael Haneke (Palme d’or 2012), where an old couple were also living their last days. But Vortex relates another story with a different visual and narrative approach. What brings the two films together is the extreme sensitivity with which they deal with the same subject. Always in search of an extraordinary image treatment, Gaspar Noé uses this time the split screen (separation of the screen in several planes) which he masters with an astonishing virtuosity, by giving two different points of view to the ‘screen.

The Argento-Lebrun couple works as if they have always known each other. Dario Argento, actor for the first time, is breathtakingly true and Françoise Lebrun overwhelming. Alex Lutz, who plays their son, is just like every performance, just incredible. A perfect cast in tune with the subject, the script and the characters. Great art. A fourth character would be the decor of this apartment which seems to have been inhabited for ages and which, in fact, was created from scratch. It is the witness of a life displayed on the walls, piling up in quantities of precious and adored books, cherished files and documents …

Seemingly calm, the last few days have actually been tormented by a fraying life, the memory of which is sinking into disarray. That of the psychiatrist, struck by Alzheimer’s disease, and that of a film historian who, by accumulating sources, is no longer found there. It is this whirlwind behind closed doors inside confined beings that the Vortex of the title. Gaspar Noé captures it wonderfully, constantly relaunching his simple and dignified story, until an ultimate gesture, nihilistic, but not desperate.

"Vortex" by Gaspar Noé (2021).  (WILD BUNCH)

Kind : Drama
Director : Gaspar Noé
Actors : Dario Argento, Alex Lutz, Françoise Lebrun
Country : France / Belgium / Monaco
Duration : 2h15
Exit : Coming soon
Distributor : Wild bunch

Synopsis : An elderly couple lives in a Parisian apartment flooded with books and memories. He is a cinephile, historian and film theorist who writes a book on the links between the 7th art and dreams. She, a retired psychoanalyst, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. In love and indispensable to each other, they will live their last days.

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