Mon Amie la Rose. In full. Gorgeous. Vortex feels left of field for Gaspar Noé, a director whose bright lights and sexualised style are stripped away. A new intimacy forms on Vortex, a delicate feature presenting the grapplings of those final days of experience. Moved by the passing of his mother to such a ruthless and upsetting disease, Noé hopes to maintain a touching intimacy with his split-screen feature. He does so with the hope of showing the distressing unknown, the paralysis of confusion and the difficulty of care in that instance when nobody is free of hardship. Keeping that pace with flowing intimacy and the so-called social ritual of togetherness as noted in the radio that blares out in the background gives Vortex a competent and respectful view of the final steps.
Active choices from Noé to keep the split screen rolling are well-intentioned but are unsteady. They mean well, it is clear to see what he aims for as Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun walk past one another and the camera switches. Neither confusing nor stuttering but it is an intention. Noé intends to keep the flow, to switch perspective, the flashes come from a break in the over-the-shoulder experience. It is balanced nicely. Not too much motion on one side as moments of blissful day-to-day goings slowly ebb away. Argento at the desk in his first lead role, Lebrun wandering the halls of a shop in one of many seasoned performances. Vortex showcases in those early moments that the passive life is something taken for granted and without knowing. Age is a tender beast and seeing it grip two people sectioned off from one another is a frightful experience.
Understanding that is to present a youthful perspective too, or at least one younger than the health and mental troubles of the elderly pair at the core of this. Vortex deploys Alex Lutz as the stand-in. Those latter moments where the fog begins to cloud the mind and screen, the moments of slight confusion resting on the bags of the eyes, it is delicate and quite the change of pace from a man who made his mark with Enter the Void. Personable experiences in waiting rooms, the panic before grievance but even that is lost when perception of surrounding and relationship with the suffering is shrouded in second thoughts. Lebrun picks up that mantle so touchingly well and Noé, whose split-screen observations rise to the challenge, are a delightful way to view grief through a new light. Those that found themselves touched and entertained by Lux Æterna (the previous Noé movie not the awful Metallica track), will likely enjoy the continuation of that style here.
Delicate surprises come through a delicate and persuasive showcase of grieving absence. Argento and Lebrun, those intimate moments together sipping wine on their balcony, present a gorgeous post-war intimacy. Splitting the pair apart gives a literal function as well as a technical style. Isolation is at the core and as the grieving process spills through Vortex, the split of the screen showing two of those incredibly broad ways of dealing with physical and mental decline, Noé opens and closes on intimate surroundings. Togetherness in life as it is at the final stage, the primal anxieties touchingly reminded of in a speech from Lutz. Aspiring to the freedoms of action, thought and feeling, while still an active choice, is a gift taken for granted. Noé details that with intimacy and thoughtfulness, his personal perspectives bleed over into a moving feature of grief for what is lost but still there.