Split-Screen Fatality: Gaspar Noé's "Vortex"

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The notorious chronicler of hard-partying youth turns to the subject of the inescapability of aging and death.

By Peter Kim George

Gaspar Noë’s Vortex concerns an elderly couple who inhabit a well lived-in flat on the outer arrondissements of Paris; husband (Dario Argento) is writing a book on cinema and dreaming, cinema as dreaming, while the woman (Françoise Lebrun), once a psychiatrist, now struggles with dementia. In other words, Vortex is supposed to be a different sort of Noë film—tender, more accessible. Absent is Noë’s more usual archetypes of chemically altered youth and the bodily grotesque, which the filmmaker raises to the level of visual sublimity (Julia Ducournau’s Titane seems to have assumed this mantle for now). And yet Noë’s instinct for excavating the essential truth of human relations in scenes that are quite brutal to watch is very much at work.

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