let’s talk about sex, baby: gaspar noé on love and lust
We sit down with the director of the year's most anticipated, controversial and romantic film.
In a calculating publicity stunt, Gaspar Noé declared his latest opus will give men a hard-on and make girls cry. The statement was intentionally inflammatory, designed to grab the attention of those unaccustomed to Noé's lascivious milieus. And it worked. Many have been waiting with baited-breath to experience Love in all its erotic 3D glory. For the most part, the movie satisfies the carnal appetites of its audience: erections may be had, but hopefully no one's crying.
However, when we caught up with the Argentinian auteur at the Toronto International Film Festival, he had changed his tune. Throughout our conversation he insisted Love was not crafted to arouse a powerful sexual response. "It's a "clean love story," he claimed, no doubt redefining what a clean love story looks like.
What are your thoughts on pornography?
I have thoughts about the movies I watched as a teenager.
You don't watch anymore?
No, no, I get bored. My addictions are elsewhere. When it comes to my movie, it's a portrayal of passion that I want to shoot as much and as close as possible to real life. We didn't want to make an arousing movie.
I was trying to do a sentimental movie about someone who is remembering his love story. When you remember a past love story you remember the best and worst moments all mixed together at once. That's why you have these carnal scenes the object of his desire, and over them I put the most sentimental music I could find in the world: Erik Satie, JS Bach. The result is a melancholic movie that is maybe an adult movie because it deals with stories that usually never happen before you are 15 or 16. It's not a coming-of-age story.
Do you believe people will watch Love and not be turned on by the images before them?
I notice that girls are more excited by the movie than men.
Why's do you think that is?
It doesn't talk to the reptilian brain, it talks more to the mammal brain -- the one that makes you want to hug someone. You come out of the movie feeling like you want to fall in love. The movie is more about kissing and hugging than about the moment of ecstasy. In the 70s there was erotic cinema, in the 80s it started to disappear. That erotic press that would show you images of female beauty, more than male beauty, has disappeared. I don't know why, but in the last 20 years, all the doors are closing. The adult images you can Google have no connection to most people's lives. Body builders having sex with shaven girls in a very mechanical way, it's emotionless. On the other hand, you have movies with people talking about love but the most you see on screen is them kissing and then it goes to another scene where they're talking again. I'm mostly surprised that there are not 501,000 movies made of this type [like Love] since the 70s. There are no real legal issues. People self-censor more than they are censored by theaters.
Are we more sexually repressed now than we were in the 70s and 80s?
I would say the whole system, in an unconscious way, is more repressive now than it was 40 years ago. When I saw Blue is the Warmest Color, I said, 'Oh, this is a movie that portrays love in a clean way.' It may shock a homophobic audience because it's two girls.
Is your movie clean?
It's clean, yeah. My movie is an honest movie. There's no hidden message in the film. All the messages are on the screen, very clearly said. Hollywood likes making movies about war -- especially martians.
What do you think Americans are more at ease watching violence than lovemaking?
It's not only Americans. It's the Western world. I probably couldn't get anyone in America to finance this movie. We made the movie with European and Brazilian money, but then once it was completed Alchemy bought it for the States. But I think the whole Western world is missing something when it comes to what it considers the main obsession of most people. War is about domination. Love is not. Love is mostly about the reproduction of the species. It's in the genetic code.
Is that what you think love is mostly about?
Yeah, it's to reaffirm life on earth.
This is true your own life?
If you have safe sex, you're not reproducing life. You're just playing. If you're having sex with someone of your own gender, it's quite hard to reproduce life. I think sex is a very animal need for the survival of your own species.
Are the relationships in Love modeled on your own?
I would say I know the world. I know the situations through my life or through my friends lives. That's the kind of world I lived in 20 years ago.
But not now?
Now I spend most of my time directing movies or preparing to direct movies. You have more time to party or to be in love when you're 20 or 25. Falling in love is time consuming. It eats your brain. When you're directing movies, you have to fall in love with your subject and 95% of your everyday energy is focused on finishing that movie.
Are you married?
I don't believe in marriage. It's complicated. It's one thing to be in love. It's another thing to love someone. You can love someone of the opposite sex that you're mating with or not as much as you can love your father and mother. But being in love is a very addictive feeling. You have this kind of tunnel vision in which the object of your desire means everything to you. So that process is very exciting. It's like being stoned on a heavy drug, but it doesn't last more than two or three years.
Text Sam Frogoso
Stills from Love