‘Love’ or ‘Porn’? One of The Raunchiest Feature Films Ever

The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing in the south of France, and it just debuted what’s perhaps the raunchiest feature film ever made. It might seem like that title was just slapped on Lars von Trier’s two-part opus Nymphomaniac two years ago, but now French director Gaspar Noe has released one of the festival’s most buzzed-about selections that could steal that label away from von Trier. Don’t let the benign title fool you, Love is a pornographic story of a destructive romance told mostly in sex scenes and to top it off was shot in 3D. If Fifty Shades of Grey was too tame for you, then this might be the envelope-pushing sex movie you’re looking for.

Noe has been building buzz and controversy surrounding Love for awhile, from promoting it as the first-ever 3D porn to releasing incredibly NSFW posters for the film that really could not be displayed anywhere.

The movie was placed in one of Cannes’s midnight slots, and according to Deadline audiences lined up early for the chance to see the racy movie people couldn’t stop talking about. “The Cannes audience got an eyeful, and not just because the film was shot in 3D. Love pushes the envelope even further than Lars von Trier’s unrated Nymphomaniac, and makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Pillow Talk,” wrote Variety.

Like with Nymphomaniac, there’s some debate over whether the sex scenes in the movie are real or simulated, with the filmmaker remaining for the most part mum on the question. What’s not simulated is the full-frontal nudity that goes on for pretty much the entire movie and a pretty predictable use of the 3D technology for a certain money shot.

There is a story to the film, but it’s sparse and kind of beside the point. An American man, Murphy, relives his fiery relationship with his ex-girlfriend Electra through flashbacks as he grows bored with his wife, the woman he left Electra for. While the movie definitely dishes out the hot sex scenes, critics are feeling a little lukewarm on the film as a whole. They’re saying that the movie doesn’t exactly reach its goal of using the sex to illustrate the intensity and sadness of love. In addition, the use of 3D feels like a gratuitous gimmick rather than adding anything interesting or beautiful to the images.

IndieWire said the movie is “intermittently absorbing, somewhat half-baked, underwritten chronicle of a doomed romance does offer a few tidbits of hardcore goods as promised, but otherwise feels lightweight.”

“If you cut out all the sex scenes in Gaspar Noe’s Love, what’s left is a wistful, some might say sappy story about heartbreak, made with impressive cinematic elan but somewhat shallow emotional depth, for all its tragic posturing,” said The Hollywood Reporter.

Deadline made fun of the fact that the jaded press didn’t flinch at any of the film’s explicit scenes. Noe told the publication that he added the use of 3D in order to keep himself challenged as a filmmaker and make the filming of sex, which is something that has been done before, more interesting. “There’s something childish about 3D. It’s like a game… I thought, what’s the next game I have never played that might be fun?” Noe told the publication.

Despite the tepid reception, it seems people would be interested in this film purely for the shock value. After all, it may be the most sexually explicit feature film to receive major backing in the form of promotion, distributors, and billing at the most renown film festival in the world. The film was picked up for distribution in the U.S. by Alchemy, but its future in America is still unknown. The company is saying that it will “do everything we can to protect this masterful film,” per The Guardian, but many are saying there’s no way it could show in theaters even with an NC-17 rating without lots of cuts. Even if some art houses agree to screen it, those theaters aren’t typically equipped with the screens necessary to show 3D movies.

While Love’s future in the U.S. is uncertain, Noe is saying he thinks the movie is a depiction of sexual love safe for even teenage audiences and referred to Americans as “square,” he said to The Guardian. He also said that he believed the movie could be seen by people as young as 12. While that isn’t likely to be allowed, Love shows there are still filmmakers out there looking to break boundaries in terms of filming sex for movie audiences, they just aren’t likely to be handed the reigns of a multimillion dollar franchise like Fifty Shades.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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