Climax

Critics Consensus

Challenging and rewarding in equal measure, Climax captures writer-director Gaspar Noé working near his technically brilliant and visually distinctive peak.

70%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 171

67%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 565
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Movie Info

From director Gaspar Noé (Irreversible; Enter the Void; Love) comes a hypnotic, hallucinatory, and ultimately hair-raising depiction of a party that descends into delirium over the course of one wintry night. In Climax, a troupe of young dancers gathers in a remote and empty school building to rehearse. Following an unforgettable opening performance lit by virtuoso cinematographer Benoît Debie (Spring Breakers; Enter the Void) and shot by Noé himself, the troupe begins an all-night celebration that turns nightmarish as the dancers discover they've been pounding cups of sangria laced with potent LSD. Tracking their journey from jubilation to chaos and full-fledged anarchy, Noé observes crushes, rivalries, and violence amid a collective psychedelic meltdown. Starring Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde) and a cast of professional dancers, Climax is Noé's most brazen and visionary statement yet.

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Critic Reviews for Climax

All Critics (171) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (119) | Rotten (52)

  • In "Enter the Void," he used this effect to mirror the experience of a hallucination. But here, it seems the bad boy is running out of tricks, and he's hammering your skull just to prove he can keep doing it.

    Mar 15, 2019 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • You just have to figure out if it's a ride you want to take.

    Mar 12, 2019 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • Alas, with the notable exception of the empathetic Boutella, the cast of Climax consists primarily of dancers who are not actors.

    Mar 8, 2019 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Cranking up the decibels, and with nausea-inducing camera work, it's a sensual overload that will have your heart pounding.

    Mar 8, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Joseph Walsh

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Surprisingly, hell turns out to be not very interesting when seen close up, and "Climax" is a bad trip that crashes before its characters do.

    Mar 6, 2019 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • Noé has made what might be his most accessible and, yes, tender film to date, teasing the idea of heavenly bliss - before heading straight to hell.

    Mar 5, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Climax

  • Nov 19, 2019
    I honestly have no idea who could enjoy Climax. I have watched dozens of movies where I knew it wasn't for me but I could at least fathom some appeal to a select viewer. Climax is the rare film where I cannot even fathom any person enjoying it, because to even attempt to enjoy it on its fever dream level it purports would only lead to disappointment. I don't think it's even possible to enjoy this movie, and maybe that's even some subversive point from writer/director Gaspar Noe. Is the very act of titling a movie called Climax with no climax itself a post-modern jape? Is that it? I'm confounded by this monotonous experimental triviality. The plot: a Parisian group of dancers is practicing in an old school building one 1990s wintry night. One of the members spikes a bowl of sangria with LSD. The dancers unwittingly get high, freak out, and lash out, leading to one long sordid night of tumult. That's it, folks. Firstly, Climax is incredibly, unbearably, crushingly tedious. It's 97 minutes that could literally be condensed into a music video for a three-minute song as far as substance is concerned. Apparently Noe was working off of a five-page script (note to readers: typically, in screenwriting terms, one page equals one minute of movie), so it's no surprise that the overwhelming majority of this movie feels empty. The first six minutes or so are watching boring interviews of the various dance troupe members answering mundane questions. It's still difficult to attach impressionable personalities or points of distinction for them beyond the superficial (Tall Blonde, Girl with Glasses, etc.). After that it's an extended dance sequence, then about twenty minutes of chit chat where the dancers are improvising, and then we have another extended group dance, and then we get to the fateful spiked punch. What I've just described is the first 45 minutes of the movie, also known as half of the film, and it could have all been removed without missing a beat. That's a serious storytelling problem. Oh, I hear others preparing the defense, the movie is intended to be an experience and not a story. If that's the case I need more of an experience. Noe described the first half of Climax as a "roller coaster" but it feels more like the long wait in line and then the brief five minutes of actual activity. Even the opening dance sequence, while energetic, is less than extraordinary. It's not exactly a sequence that would wow me any more than a deleted scene from a direct-to-DVD Step Up sequel. Climax fatally errs by, of all things, restraint. I could accept the slow buildup, the tedium, and even the paper-thin characters if, and that's a big if, Noe was able to pull out all the stops with his freak-out finale and just went bonkers. However, it's not quite the same when we don't also experience the hallucinations and madness befalling our dancers. Instead we watch them pace around and scream, cry, sometimes writhe, sometimes fall down, sometimes fall down and writhe, sometimes fall down and writhe and cry, and that's about the extent. It can be downright embarrassing to watch especially as Noe's penchant for tracking shots makes the performance takes so agonizingly long. There are brief moments of unpredictability where the dancers become violent and paranoid, but these are fleeting and we're back to watching people we don't care about scream about imaginary things. Imagine if Noe let the audience in on these personal, psychedelic, and monstrous drug trips. Imagine how much more visually alive that would be and also how much more it would connect us with the characters, perhaps linking their hallucinations to personal traumas and anxieties. I've had friends discuss going along for the ride with Climax, but what ride does it even offer? The final ten minutes consists of a confusing upside-down camera angle, a scathing red light, and more antic writhing on the floor with the occasional sexual copulation. At that point, I had long lost any interest to even attempt to decipher the screen. None of these characters matter, so I kept waiting for the eventual bad fates to fall upon them as the movie ramped into its horror section but Climax doesn't even do this. I was expecting things to get progressively worse and take on a tragic momentum of escalating mistakes. I was expecting something and all I got was an extended music video where the extras had taken over, trying to convince me that their little spheres of drama were worth following (there were not). The little moments of conversation between the characters feel like you're eavesdropping on normal, ordinary, and boring people but also people without clear indication for character arcs, ironic reversals, or any of the sort of contexts that can make people interesting in narratives. There's just no potential here for the characters and nothing that amounts to satisfaction (oh the ongoing irony of its title, I know). Here's how bad Noe miscalculates: at the very end, we discover which character was responsible for spiking the sangria, and it's treated like a big reveal, except this was never an important mystery and I didn't even recognize the culprit. It didn't matter because the mystery never mattered and the characters especially never mattered. Noe has been a cinematic provocateur ever since his first film, 2002's Irreversible, began with a grueling, graphic nine-minute rape scene. He seems more drawn to pushing button so he might devote an entire movie to a floating spiritual perspective (Into the Void) or shoot a love story with un-simulated sex including graphic 3D use of said parts (Love). He's not exactly the kind of man who wants to tell a simple story in a simple way (though I would argue a majority of his stories are pretty simple). So, if it's all about technical bravura and showmanship and pushing the envelope, then let the man be judged on those grounds, and he is found wanting with Climax. The long swooping camerawork can be impressive as it tracks all over the confines of this building but the positives are weighed down by the banality of the visuals. Far too much of this movie is simply following people walk down corridors. There aren't key, striking visuals to sear into your memory and it feels like Noe's heart just isn't in this. There's one scene where a dancer, goaded by an angry and accusatory crowd, starts stabbing herself in the face. I was expecting something far more graphic or bloody or consequential, but it's like a shrug. It feels like he's even bored by the assignment of directing his own movie and just keeping the camera running so he can cross the 90-minute finish line and call it over. I come back again and again to the question of how it is even possible to enjoy Climax. I think, even if you were to be overly generous, Noe's film just cannot measure up on any artistic or entertainment metric. If you're eager for a crazy, trippy, immersive drug-fueled experience, get ready for something more akin to standing by and holding the hair of your friend while they vomit into a toilet. Nate's Grade: D
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Mar 02, 2019
    Consider me shook. Few modern directors can fill me with the full spectrum of emotion like Gaspar Noe. Like Lars von Trier and Darren Aranofsky, he loves to push buttons, annoy, and manipulate his audience. I've visibly angered some people after exposing them to his films, and I could certainly see why they felt that way. I won't deny that there were a few times in Climax where I was quite put-off, but like any well-rounded trip, the highs get so high that the lows are devastating. Purported to have taken place in France in 1996, the incident performed in the movie is a manic dance party where a troupe of contorted, gyrating euro-trash get an unexpected psychedelic nightmare when someone slips LSD into the sangria bowl. It's an electric kool aid acid test gone terribly wrong. The first half of the film covers the heavenly and joyful peaks with a dynamic series of one shot sequences that groove and fly along with the dancers. The second half is a hellish dreamscape, an assault on the senses, and a disorienting plummet into insanity and degradation. It becomes like a rave culture update to The Exterminating Angel as the dancers collectively devolve into sputtering animals, attacking each other in orgiastic fits of violence and passion. For a film with such a premise, the biggest surprise to me was that there is no attempt at simulating the hallucinatory experience like other 'head'? films. That's not to say that it isn't trippy as hell, there's just not much superfluous effect added to what's in front of the camera. Cinematographer Benoit Debie's unmistakable camerawork is the demon to Emmanuel Lubezki's angel, and one will pick up strong vibes of Irreversible in the second half. The visual rollercoaster is bolstered by a soundtrack I could have handpicked myself. It's slightly anachronistic for the setting ("Windowlicker'"? came out in ~'99), but I was dancing in my seat, banger after banger. As audio-visual experiences go, it's unrelenting and made me feel dirty, but I liked it.
    K Nife C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 15, 2018
    Gaspar Noé pulls us into another one of his maddening nightmares of hell, creating a technically ingenious and insanely uncomfortable experience with intense colors and a camera that seems almost like a character itself in the way it moves towards absolute hysteria as well.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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