Irreversible - Irreversible(Blu Ray) [ Powerhouse - 2021]
Here from Powerhouse is a new double-disc reissue of Irreversible- probably one of the most extreme and controversial films to appear on the mainstream European film market in the early 2000s. The films primarily a drama, that’s running backwards- but what made it so troubling/ notorious is its prolonged rape scene, moments of brutal violence, and it's dizzying/ distorting camera work that takes up the first quarter of the film. This new release takes in two cuts of the film, a good selection of old and new extras, an 80-page booklet, and a double-sided poster.
Released in 2002 Irreversible was the second feature-length film from extreme/ daring auteur Gaspar Noé. In all Buenos Aires, Argentina born now French-based, Noé has thirty-one credits to his name, with six of these been feature-length films. With his work he’s always trying to push/ experiment with film genres, and Irreversible certainly stands as one of his most initially changeling films- as the whole story is played backwards, and the first quarter or so is taken up by gravity-defying fly like POV camera work- and of course, the infamous and still very disturbing underpass rape scene, which seems to go on and on, as well of course of the moments of glanced perversion and moments of brutal violence.
The film focuses on a French night out in the lives of twenty-something couple Alex(Monica Bellucci) and Marcus(Vincent Cassel)- who are joined for the night by the slightly older Pierre(Albert Dupontel)- who went out with Alex in the past and is Marcus’s friend. The film opens with its credits moving backwards, and as we get into the film the groups' story is told backwards scene by scene- we see a brutally beaten man been taken out of a gay S&M club, Marcus & Pireere searching for someone, the rape, a party the three go to, on train banter, and before the night out. At its centre the film is a drama- sure it has its extremes, both in structure, filming style, and moments of shock- but in its centre, we have an unfolding character study/ emotionally drama.
All of the cast are largely good and well placed- partially notable of course are the three leads- Bellucci as Alex really shows a host of believable emotions and you do really feel for her- with her performances in the underpass been truly gruelling and very troubling. Cassel again goes through a lot- moving between in ranging and unbalanced, to the drunk and flirting joker, to a caring and playful partner. And Dupontel is effective as the friend/ ex-lover. The films more extreme elements are done in both powerful, gritty, yet artful manner- and the first half of the film really is a disorientating experience, with moments of intensity that will affect even the most seasoned of extreme film fan. I’d say as a film Irreversible is something I admire/ respected more than like/ enjoy, but as a watching experience you’ll find nothing like it, and for that reason, it’s a very important and powerful film.
Moving onto this new region B two Blu Ray set- and on the first disc we get directors approved new 2k scan of the film- this is well balanced and crisp in its picture, which heights both the distorting and brutal elements, as it does the more mundane drama side of things. Moving onto the extras on this first disc- and the only brand new extra here is a near fifteen-minute visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study- she discusses the films two different cuts- the original and 2020 recut, which finds the film's story running in conventional forward running form, and how each cut changes the viewers' impression of the film. She moves on to compare it to other rape-revenge films, and gives a detailed analysing of the very disturbing and prolong rape attack- all told it’s a most worthy and interesting visual essay. Otherwise, on the first disc, we get a good selection of archive extras- these take in an audio commentary by Gaspar Noé from 2009. we have The Irreversible Odyssey- 2019 retrospective doc about the film, this runs forty-four minutes and takes in interviews with Noé and the films cast/crew. There are two audio interviews- one from 2009, which runs 90 minutes and is purely with Noé. Then there’s a 2002 interview with Noé, and two of the actors. There’s an eight-minute effects featurette, a deleted scene, a 2005 short doc by Noé about a man with aids, and a selection of music videos from Noé.
On the second disc, we get just the forwards 2020 recut of the film- this runs at eight minutes shorter than the original cut with a runtime of 90 minutes. And there’s no doubt it does change ones watching experience of the film, with it playing much more like a formal rape-revenge film, but of course with Noé arty touches still very much in place. Lastly, on this disc, we get a trailer- when the original and straight cut were reissued. The finished release comes with an 80-page book- which features a new essay by Anna Bogutskaya, an archival American Cinematographer article on the technical aspects of the film, a BBFC case study, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and an archival ‘for and against’ article by Nick James and Mark Kermode, a look at the creation of the Straight Cut, new writing on Intoxication, and film credits.
It's nice to see Powerhouse giving their usual great and extras packed treatment to a more extreme/ troubling film like Irreversible. Let's hope this reissue is popular, then we might get the company reissuing more of this type of film. It goes without saying this is not a film for everyone, and it still retains both its shock and dizzying disorientation- but this new reissue certainly gives this film the ultimate release. Roger Batty