It doesn’t work in either direction.
When Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” premiered at Cannes back in 2002, half the audience were repulsed by its rape scene, while the other half admired Noe’s filmmaking skills. Seeing Monica Bellucci’s character Alex getting raped by the pig Le Tenia (Jo Prestia) was one of the most disgusting experiences of my life. And after that he bashes her face on the ground. How could anyone find that scene to be watchable? Unfortunately, they still kept that scene in what is known as “The Straight Cut.” That means the original cut was in reverse order, while the new version is in order.
Noe made “Irreversible” in reverse order to reminisce on the success of “Memento.” I dont even think it’s a good idea to put that Christopher Nolan film in straight order, because the reverse order kept audiences guessing on what has previously happened in what is supposed to be the beginning. It would be like putting “Pulp Fiction” in order of narrative. I wanted to see what went on before like how Richard Roemer described “Memento” as an “origami video on rewind.”
I watched the original cut before I could see how they handle the straight cut. The movie has a brutal atmosphere with dangerous leading performances from Bellucci, Vincent Cassell as her boyfriend Marcus and Albert Dupontel as her ex Pierre. She left Pierre for not turning her on in bed, whereas Marcus can pleasure her. The two men want to avenge Alex, who was left in a coma as a result. And it has the kind of visual style that Noe’s fans appreciate. But I was still disgusted by its immoral choices, not just that rape scene, but because of its homophobic slurs and graphic violence, both of which take place at the gay BDSM club called “The Rectum.”
Whether you watch the straight or backwards cut, you’re going to be disgusted by the rape scene, and you’re going to be conflicting about the other scenes. I was attracted when Marcus and Alex sleep together, I was interested in Marcus’ persistence in finding the villain, and I admired their choice of dialogue. The straight cut opens with the sex, the subway ride, and the party, and if I saw them first, I would been excited and then repulsed at what happens when Alex decides to head home early.
The original take opened with flashing titles and closed with flickering lights, while this new cut opens with both. I don’t suffer from photosensitivity yet, but I could develop it if I keep seeing them over and over again. It should be bad for anyone’s eyes, especially if it’s scene again on the big screen at your local art house theater.
Both Roeper and the late Roger Ebert liked the film on its own terms, but warned that audiences will stay away from it, because of the rape and violence. I would have loved “Irreversible” better if it was a shorter movie for all the reasons I’ve mentioned.
These are the theatrical dates for the Straight Cut so far.
New York City / IFC Center – 2/10
Los Angeles / Landmark’s Nuart – 2/10
Philadelphia – 2/14
Denver – 2/17
San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Raleigh – 2/24
Atlanta – 3/17