Oops, didnt mean to take that LSD, who are we, again?
Oops, didn't mean to take that LSD, who are we, again?

With Climax, controversy-courting director Gaspar Noé—the enfant terrible behind Irreversible, Enter the Void, and Love—does everything within his power to fuck with viewers’ perceptions. The movie begins with the final moments of the story to come, followed quickly by the closing credits (running backwards, naturally). About a third of the way into the film, he drops the eye-popping opening credits, and throughout, Benoît Debie’s camera dips, rolls, and spins.

All of the above tricks feel like typical Noé, but here, the jarring visuals and strange interruptions serve a greater narrative purpose, embedding viewers deep within the mindset of a modern dance troupe led by Selva (Sofia Boutella). Chaos ensues when the troupe is unwittingly dosed with high-octane LSD, with the psychedelics unleashing the dancers’ underlying tensions.

But the biggest mindfuck in Climax is how Noé creates what's easily the most entertaining and palatable film, in spite of his usual predilections for both pretension and forcing his female characters to suffer constant violence and abuse. Free of the fantastical elements found in other trippy horror stories—Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, for example—Climax ends up being a lot harder to easily shake off or dismiss through an ironic remove. If you can stomach Noé’s worst tendencies, this one will stick with you.

Climax screens tonight through next Thurs., March 8, at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. For more reviews, visit our Film & TV page. For more films screening this weekend, visit our Movie Times page.