IRREVERSIBLE: STRAIGHT CUT -- The Interesting Experiment in Form Leads to Another (Less Successful) Experiment
Review by Sean Boelman
Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible is one of the most controversial and disturbing films of all time, so why anyone would willingly choose to revisit it — even if they like the film — is baffling. Still, Noé’s new “Straight Cut” of the film offers a new way to experience the boundary-pushing thriller, and this approach to the story is even more flawed than the original version.
In this version of the film, Noé presents the events of the story in chronological rather than reverse chronological order. It’s hard to recommend this film — in either of its forms — outside of the hardcore cinephile base because of its extremely graphic depiction of sexual assault. Still, this version — just as the original was — is an intriguing experiment in form.
Watching the original version and this reversed version (which is, in actuality, going forwards) on consecutive nights is quite the experience. Beyond rewatching what is one of the most torturously grim scenes ever committed to film twice, it feels almost like two completely different experiences. And unfortunately, one of those experiences is much better than the other.
In presenting the story in a linear fashion, Noé removes much of the intrigue, mystery, and ambiguity of the story. It’s a much more straightforward film, and its messaging that is questionable in the original cut becomes almost deplorable in the new cut. It’s the lack of context that makes viewers ask questions, but when this context is provided upfront, there are no questions to be asked.
There are certainly some homophobic and transphobic undertones in the original version, but those undertones become outright hurtful in the recut. It becomes abundantly clear that we are watching a series of hate crimes fueled by prejudice. As such, the film becomes repugnant rather than provocative.
The narrative has completely changed from one of morally gray justice to one of rage-fuelled violence. Although the assault scene is still absolutely horrific, the film’s condemnation of the perpetrator feels much weaker in this case. Rather than disgusting the viewer that he got away with it, it feels like the film just kinda moves on in this case.
Altered Innocence will also be screening this new version alongside a 2K restoration of the original film, and that’s arguably where viewers’ time would be better spent. The cinematography is even more dizzying than before, and the energy even more manic, allowing the experience to hit hard even if you have seen it before.
Irreversible: Straight Cut is inferior to the original version in almost every way, but it’s still nice that Noé got to do something different with the film. Viewers should probably skip this re-cut and go see the 2K restoration screening alongside it instead.
Irreversible: Straight Cut hits theaters on February 10.