Japan is not the best place to get involved with hallucinogenic drugs or narcotics. The laws are very strict, and hipster foreigners who hang out in popular nightlife districts are immediately suspect. But for a taste of tripping through the narrow streets of Tokyo amid its kaleidoscope of flashing lights, settle in for the first 30 minutes of Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void.
Siblings Oscar (Nathan Brown) and Linda (Paz de la Huerta) live together in a tiny apartment in the shadows of one of the Tokyo commercial districts that continually flash like a casino or amusement park at night. She's a stripper and he's progressing from drug user to dealer. The only clunky moment in the film comes in the opening scene when Oscar mentions he's reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Drug etiquette should preclude any discussion of Eastern philosophy or religion while smoking powerful drugs, but the very brief exchange tips off Noe's intentions.
The film explores similarities between brain chemicals released during trauma, sex and other intense experiences and the boutique substances the Tokyo expats imbibe. Noe delves into a free-associating and trippy nexus of mind-altering drugs, sexual desire, love, jealousy, trauma, rage and memory. The film follows a stream of consciousness throughout, with dreamy and psychedelic stretches punctuated by unpredictable crashes into reality and twisted memories and visions. The majority of the film revolves around the powerful bond between Oscar and Linda as they are torn apart. They haven't lived easy lives, and the film scrapes against all the rough and dark edges.
There is a lot of interesting camera work as most of the film comes from Oscar's perspective, and we almost never see his face. Often he seems to float above the action and ethereally intrude on private moments. Reaching down into his unfiltered psyche is often not an easy trip, particularly as he visualizes a friend's interest in Linda, and in flashbacks of how the two siblings were separated as children. The film doesn't write-off the pursuit of sex or drugs as superficial escape into the pleasure dome. Instead, it uses them as points of access to capture the primal desire for connection. It's an emotionally complicated and sometimes graphic film, and if you can indulge the drug culture, it's well worth the trip. — Will Coviello
Enter the Void
Chalmette Movies, 8700 W. Judge Perez Drive, Suite D, 304-9992; www.chalmettemovies.com