Warning: This article contains spoilers about the film's plot and some graphic content. Be (double) warned.
This is Murphy. He's the protagonist of Gaspar Noé's new film, "Love," a hardcore, 3D look at the euphoric experience of having sex while in love.
Murphy is very sad. He's sad for a lot of reasons. Two years ago, his wildly hot art school girlfriend Electra wanted to have a threesome with their wildly hot 16-year-old neighbor, who Murphy decided to have sex with again in secret, got her pregnant -- oops! she's pro-life! -- and now he can't be with the love of his life. Also, he's sad because Electra hates him as a result, is a junkie, and is missing.
Murphy is also sad because his dreams of being a famous filmmaker have shriveled up, mostly because he did too many drugs and had too much sex, leaving little time for work. Finally, he is sad because he's gained a belly and has a stupid baby mustache.
In summation, Murphy is sad because, in his words, "I'm a dick. A dick has one purpose: to fuck. And I fucked it all up." Murphy's right, he is a dick! And in Noé's visually blissful film, this big ol' dick is very much in your face.
"Love" boasts rapturous, stretched out depictions of real, passionate, un-cinematic sex, where contorted grimaces, manual stimulation and slow pleasure replace porny moans, creaking bed frames and strategically filmed, entwined feet. And yet, despite the sensuous symphony of licking, panting and touching underway, it's hard to think about anything but the giant dick taking up the whole frame. And I'm not talking about the close-up of Murphy's erection.
Murphy isn't just a bad guy. He's a bad character, a fuckboy, a sexual cliche.
Considering Noé's lofty aspirations for presenting sex on screen as its never been seen before, it's peculiar and frustrating to see that ambition grafted onto a man who is so uninteresting in his stereotypical misogyny, selfishness, moroseness, and aggression. The kind of guy who takes his girlfriend to a sex club and then berates her for enjoying herself. The sort of dude who lambastes the woman he's trying to impress about her not having seen "2001" and then declares his wish to become a director to teach (dumb) people (like her) about film. The man who, after finding out he just had sex with a 16-year-old girl, responds, "I fucking love Europe." Noé's triumphs in portraying real and raw sex on screen are garbled by Murphy's nauseating and unoriginal antics. Instead of making your jaw drop, this dick will just trigger your gag reflex.
Can we stop ogling big dicks on the big screen? From Marlon Brando as a rape-y romantic in "Last Tango in Paris" to Joaquin Phoenix as a poor, sad, white boy in "Her," so many films aiming for provocation and ingenuity deliver the same old faux complex frontman. Of course, it doesn't help that Murphy's character seems like a stand-in for Noé himself, who too studied abroad as a film student and potentially also had some hot threesomes, thus eliminating the hope that Murphy's antics are meant to be criticized without empathy. When audiences laugh at Murphy lamely calling his girlfriend a bitch or a slut, they do so, it seems, with that hipster mix of irony and understanding.
In a Q&A following a Los Angeles screening of the film on Nov. 3, Karl Glusman, who plays Murphy, recalled the moment he found out he'd been cast in the film. Gaspar Noé called. "I answered the phone," Glusman said, "and Gaspar said, 'How do you feel about having your erect cock in my film?'"
I walked out of the theater about then, but the message was heard loud and clear. "Love" is a movie about love and sex, at times honest and beautiful and real and very hot. But unfortunately, one very large dick is taking up too much space.
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