CINEMA

PRESS PLAY (2022)

MPAA: NR
Release Date: 06/10/22 [VOD]

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Studio: Yellow Veil Pictures

"Two actresses, Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are on a film set telling stories about witches - but that's not all. 'Lux Æterna' is also an essay on cinema, the love of film, and on-set hysterics."

OUR MOVIE REVIEW:

Gaspar Noé broke my mind when I first saw Enter the Void back in 2009. At a mere 19 years old and still absorbing and learning about cinema, I had seen little like it before, which prompted me to seek more of his works. His previous two features, I Stand Alone and Irreversible, equally astounded me. Noé, as a director, pushes the bounds of conventional filmmaking and structure. Whether it be a film where the entire film’s story is told backward as with Irreversible, or the first person POV and seizure happy neon colored strobe light effects used throughout Enter the Void. He's a director that is polarizing, to say the least. With Lux Ӕterna he delivers again, and the result is mesmerizing. 

 

The story, displayed and told almost entirely through use of split-screen. It’s safe to say that most people have seen split-screen techniques used in movies before, but it’s unique to see a film use it to the degree it does in Lux Ӕterna as it really enhances the films narrative. In one of the film’s first scenes, Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg, both of whom are playing a version of themselves, are on a chair conversing about witches, horny young men, and past acting experiences, you know as women typically do. At first it’s one straight forward shot with both actresses in frame, but as the conversation becomes more of a back and forth between the two, it switches to split-screen, with Béatrice on one side of the split and Charlotte on the other. The effectiveness of this technique shines as it continues throughout the movie. 

 

Lux Æterna’s plot centers on a film crew on set preparing to shoot a scene involving witches being burned at the stake. It's the behind-the-scenes drama of the production that we are following. It's actress Béatrice Dalles directorial debut effort and most of the crew seem to be quickly losing faith in her competency behind the camera. A lot of this drama is where the split screen spectacle of Lux Æterna becomes noticeably compelling as it recurrently will shift from one shot that splits in half, sometimes resulting in a similar situation to the scene described above, and other times tracking two different events concurrently. The outcome of this is a complete engagement with the characters and plot. Where the focus never wains nor feels bloated. The fast-paced, chaotic nature of filmmaking is prevalent in every shot of Gaspar Noé’s 51 minute one-two punch statement on cinema, and the responsibility a director accepts.


There have been plenty of movies that revolve around the behind-the-scenes efforts and issues that happen during production, but masterful ones that leave a lasting impression are few and far between. When done extraordinarily well, you get films like Olivier Assayas’ brilliant Irma Vep or François Truffauts’ masterpiece Day for Night. The film community may not feel comfortable putting Gaspar Noés’ experimental wonder that is Lux Ӕterna in league with those films so soon. Yet, that's the impression and observation it left me with, when the intense, violating, assault on the senses shuttled me into a mind-boggling trance of a cinematic trip.

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OUR VERDICT: