Gaspar Noé’s ‘Love’ brings graphic 3-D sex to Cannes Film Festival

Karl Glusman, pictured in a scene from 'Love.'. Handout

CANNES, France — The movies are in love with love, but they’re often squeamish about sex.

That’s not something that can be said about director Gaspar Noé, whose new film Love brings graphic sex – in myriad positions and permutations, in twosomes, threesomes and groups – to the Cannes Film Festival.

A depiction of turbulent youthful relationships, it’s extremely explicit – and it’s in 3-D. Love is full frontal, in-your-face filmmaking.

“I want to make movies out of blood, sperm and tears,” said the central male character, an American film student in Paris. That could be Noé’s motto, too.

The director wants to smash the convention that keeps graphic eroticism out of mainstream cinema.

“I was making a film about love,” Noé told reporters in Cannes Thursday. “It wasn’t a film about Swiss banks or Scientology.”

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“What everyone has in common is their love of making love,” he said.

Love stars American actor Karl Glusman and European performers Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin as the members of a turbulent love triangle in Paris. Noé has a cameo as a wig-wearing art gallery owner.

From left: Klara Kristin, Gaspar Noe, Karl Glusman and Aomi Muyock, pictured on May 21, 2015. Samir Hussein / WireImage

The actors said they were initially uncomfortable with the film’s all-baring intimacy, though they came to embrace it.

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“The first day shooting, Gaspar decided to start us off with a close-up of my genitals,” Glusman said. “I was in the bathroom beforehand looking in the mirror, thinking I should escape to the airport and run back to the United States.”

Glusman said he was proud of the finished movie – and so was his mother, “especially because the film is playing in such a prestigious festival.”

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Noé, an Argentina-born French director, has a history of cinematic provocations. His 2002 film Irreversible contained a scene so violent that some audience members bolted for the exits. Enter the Void, which played at Cannes in 2009, was a hallucinatory drug odyssey that left some entranced and others baffled.

Love offers an eye-catching mix of sex and 3-D, a technology Noé says he used because it was a new challenge.

“There is something childish about 3-D,” Noé said. “It’s like a game. … I thought what’s the next game I’ve never played that might be fun?”

Love was – unsurprisingly – one of the most anticipated films at Cannes, where it is playing as a special out-of-competition screening.

Yet some reviewers found it disappointingly limp. The Guardian newspaper called it “50 shades of vanilla.”

The Hollywood Reporter said that if you strip out the sex, the film is “a wistful, some might say sappy story about heartbreak, made with impressive cinematic elan but somewhat shallow emotional depth.”

Whatever the critics say, sex will sell Love – and also limit its commercial prospects.

The film should be screened uncut in much of Europe, where audiences and censors are tolerant of explicit, nonviolent sex scenes. But it is likely to fall foul of film censors in many countries and will probably have a limited release in the United States.

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“The Americans, when it comes to film distribution, they can be very square,” Noé said.

“I think this movie could never have been done in America. No way.”

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