Irreversible: Straight Cut (2002/20) Review
SPOILER WARNING: If by some odd chance you are unfamiliar with Irreversible you will probably want to avoid this review because, as a comparison between the original and Irreversible: Straight Cut there some major plot points revealed.
Easily one of the most notorious films of this century, or of the past hundred years for that matter, Gaspar Noé’s (Climax, Enter the Void) Irreversible is a film I didn’t foresee myself revisiting. But with the director himself revisiting it to create a new version, not a director’s cut but a directors re-cut the press release is quick to point out, Irreversible: Straight Cut, I found myself too curious about the results not to.
Apart from its brutal nine-minute rape scene and equally vicious death by fire extinguisher opening, Irreversible is also noted for its reverse chronological structure. It starts with a revenge killing and then goes back to the sexual assault that spawned it and the events leading to the assault. The audience is hit with the violence right from the start, introduced to the characters in the midst of it, and then scroll back knowing what awaits them.
For Irreversible: Straight Cut Noé has gone back and recut the film so it now flows in a conventional order, beginning with Alex (Monica Bellucci, Nekrotronic, Brotherhood of the Wolf) relaxing in the park on a beautiful summer day. We then get to see her, Marcus (Vincent Cassel, The Crimson Rivers, Sheitan) and their friend Pierre (Vincent Cassel, See You Up There, The Prey) who also happens to be Alex’s ex, before violence sends everyone’s life spinning out of control.
While Irreversible has sometimes been wrongly perceived as a “rape and revenge” B movie, here the deadly outcome is all the more depressing. The film can be more easily seen as a fable on the contagion of barbarity and the command of the reptilian brain over the rational mind.Gaspar Noé
Obviously rearranging the way the audience is introduced to Irreversible’s characters and situations should change their perceptions of them. Here they meet them under normal circumstances and see them as they actually are before seeing them as broken victims and bloodied avengers. The problem is, after twenty years of notoriety, that’s difficult if not impossible to achieve. If you’ve seen the film before there’s no way to clear your mind of those scenes. Even if someone were to watch Irreversible: Straight Cut without having seen the original its notoriety makes it unlikely they wouldn’t know what awaits the characters.
One thing that did stand out this time is just how obnoxious Marcus is. In the original cut, his behaviour at the party pales in comparison to the violence we’ve already seen. He comes off as obnoxious but more on a yell at him after you get home level. Without that that to modify it, it’s a lot clearer why Alex storms off and leaves on her own. It also creates a feeling that as much as he’s avenging her rape he’s dealing with his own guilt for causing her to have been there alone when it happened.
And yes, in the original we see him act a lot worse before the party, but in context, it seems understandable, if not actually excusable that he’s losing his shit and letting rage dictate his actions, an uglier version of the transformation in so many vigilante/revenge films. Irreversible: Straight Cut makes it clear he was always an asshole.
I can see how some other changes would play out differently for somebody who truly was unfamiliar with Irreversible. Most obviously knowing Marcus and Pierre attack the wrong man as the scene starts would make it a lot more horrific. And finding out about Alex’s pregnancy after the attack becomes an additional blow after an already bruising scene.
While I don’t agree with many other critics that Irreversible: Straight Cut is a brilliant and revelatory experience, neither do I agree with detractors who’ve labelled it a cash grab. It’s somewhere in the middle, an interesting but unnecessary experiment that falls victim to the original’s impact.
Altered Innocence, will release Gaspar Noé’s director’s re-cut, Irreversible: Straight Cut theatrically on February 10th in Los Angeles, New York City, and additional cities throughout the U.S. You can find a list of theatres and dates on their website. If that wasn’t quite extreme enough for you, FilmTagger can suggest some titles, if you dare to watch them.