gaspar noé: love is the drug

We meet the most controversial, compelling and inventive director of our generation to talk about his new film, Love.

by Piotr Czerkawski
27 August 2015, 5:05pm

Your latest movie is titled, simply, Love. You didn't want a fancier title?
What for? I am surprised that there are not many movies with titles like this. Not many directors would decide to title their movies 'Life', 'Cosmos' or 'Human'. Probably only Terrence Malick would be cocky enough to do that. Meanwhile, we keep on thinking and talking about love, we'd print this word on a t-shirt... But we're afraid of it as movie title?

Your heroes come up with different definitions of love. Some are cynical, some romantic. How would you define love?
Someone once said that 'love is like a hard drug'. And I agree with that. It's not even about a connection with a certain person - it's about the feeling itself. You can get high off your own desire, because when you feel it, your hormones are buzzing, just as if you were high. A junkie wakes up and thinks only about heroin - the only difference is with love, you can't stop thinking about that girl. You fuck, go to the cinema, fuck again and again, and your duties and relations with other people stop being important. Love is very addictive, and breaking up can be as hard as quitting drugs too.

Love reminds me of Irréversible. As the movie progresses, we go back and back in time, and look at the protagonists, who are not aware of their bad luck and things that are going to happen in the future.
Ideas for Irréversible, Love and Enter the Void were all conceived around the same time. I cared the most about Enter The Void, but I also knew that it would be the most expensive. That is why I decided to shot something cheaper first. I had written a short summary of Love, and later I bumped into Vincent Cassel in a Parisian club. He was interested and said 'maybe Monica Bellucci and I could star in this?'. I was delighted, so I quickly wrote the script. When Vincent and Monica realised, that they would have to really have sex on camera, they said I must be crazy. But they still wanted to work with me, so we did Irréversible instead.

Love's protagonist is a young cinematographer, Murphy, is a bit of a narcissistic asshole.
Well... OK, I will tell you. Murphy is a parody of 20-something-year-old me. If I was a little less talented, I would probably be just like him. He talks a lot about his potential career, but I don't think that he would ever be able to do a good movie, because he is rather shallow and doesn't have many interesting thoughts. I hope that this is where we differ, because for a long time, I thought that my life is short and ugly, so therefore I needed a pseudonym. I sometimes introduced myself to girls as Murphy. I thought it sounded cool, English and somehow had an air of a movie-maker.

What else do you have in common with Murphy?
When I was his age, my friends also talked me into doing a lot of stupid things. For example, they said: 'Come on, you've got to try sex with a transvestite!' We also have a similar taste in movies. We both love Pasolini, Fassbinder and Kubrick. I think you're a little too hard on him.

Ok, I know he has a specific sense of humour and he often tells elephantine jokes, but who hasn't done that? Besides that, he has a thing for drugs, and sometimes they don't do the right thing for him. I have a lot of friends, who are sweet when sober, but after a bit of liquor they become intolerable. Others don't have problems with alcohol, but after trying some drugs they can turn life into hell. It's like with a partner, who at first seem perfect, but after one, extreme situation, shows his or her true nature.

At one point Murphy says about his girl: 'I hope she won't make our son a fag'. Weren't you afraid that people would find that homophobic?
Well, someone was surely outraged, but that's not my problem. I got used to it after Irreversible. I don't know what this noise is all about. I am straight, but I really don't have a problem with gays and lesbians. Murphy's line just seemed funny to me.

I really like the scene, in which Murphy and his girlfriend invite a blond neighbour in to have a threesome. They ask her about her age, and she says '17... almost'. Murphy, an American, replies: 'I fucking love Europe!'
In France it is legal to have sex after you are 15 years old; I think that in Spain or the Netherlands the age is even lower. Love is partly a parody of American movies about teenagers. I use 3D technology and tell a cliché story of a boy who goes on a coming-of-age trip to Europe. But at the same time, I  tried to film many things that Americans wouldn't dare to film.

So which movie that you saw recently did manage to arouse you?
Spring Breakers! Finally, an American director showed that American teenagers love to have sex too. They are aware of their sensuality and can have fun with it.

What do you think about ordinary pornography?
I think it should be taken out of its ghetto. If cinema shows almost every other aspect of our daily lives, what do we have such a problem with showing sex? Why, if you want to see two people fucking, do you need to go on RedTube?

Why do you think sex is still so taboo? Religion?
I think, in a part, yes. Catholics and Jews are obsessed about sex, but Muslims are the worst. Just look what they force their woman to wear. But religion is only a part of a very complex, larger issue. Sexuality is one of those categories, that are repressed in many ways. Parents control the sex life of their children, the rich control the sex lives of the poor. To me, it all seems to be a part of a one, large patriarchal system, which - despite the illusory triumph of modernity - is still standing rather strong.

Can you feel it in the world of cinema?
Of course. Just look at the censorship. The belief that the authorities have a right to tell people what they are allowed to see is its foundation. It is very arrogant. These sort of people banned screenings of Love in Russia. But there is hope that this whole system will fall apart thanks to the power of the internet. Bans and warnings are meaningless if every kid can just go to his room and finding anything he wants in, like, five seconds.

When you shot Enter the Void, you said that you were tired of Paris. So why did you come back to it in Love?
At some point I began to feel like that dude from the Groundhog Day. Every day began the same way, I knew who was going to call me and when, I could predict what the guy from a newsagents was going to say to me. But after moving to Tokyo to shot Enter the Void, I found I was ok with returning to Paris. There's a lot of museums, cinemas, a lot of places to draw inspiration from. A lot of my friends live there, and many others come here from time to time. That doesn't change the fact that after Love I need a little change. Again. I would love to go to Africa for two weeks, just to clear my mind.

You often speak of your detachment from bourgeois and conservative French cinema. Does the film establishment in Paris hate you for that?
I don't think so. I just said that there is a type of French movies that is painfully boring to me. On the other hand, there are French film-makers, whom I will always adore. For example Jean Vigo, Jean Eustache or Jean-Luc Godard. 

And last, but not least, do you agree with the girl from Love, who says that 'there is nothing better than sex after opium?
I don't know if 'there is nothing better', but I tried it a couple of times and it was always very pleasant. But MDMA and opium together are even better. I swear, it feels as if you're with two chicks at once!


Text Piotr Czerkawski

gaspar noe