Gaspar Noe‘s 3D Love screened this morning at 11 am in the Salle Bazin. I was right there in the last row with my orange-framed 3D glasses. I liked that they passed out little antiseptic wipe packets with the glasses, which they never do in the States. In order to make sure of a seat I had to stand at the back of the Grand Lumiere during the final minutes of Jacques Audiard‘s respectable but somewhat minor Dheepan and rush up to the Bazin…push, huddle, trudge.

Are you noticing anything different about this review? Mainly that after four sentences I’m tiddly-winking around and not saying anything about how good, bad, reasonably decent or mezzo-mezzo Love is? Not because it’s a bad or dull or unworthy film, but because I can’t seem to summon any strong feelings about it.

Okay, I found the sex scenes mildly appealing. Before this morning I had never seen graphic sex depicted in 3D, and I have to say that while I didn’t feel blown away by the unusualness of the footage I wasn’t entirely unaffected. I was sitting there going “Yeah, okay…this isn’t half bad as far as the 3D aspect is concerned. Visually distinctive, striking, arresting. Nice bods, nicely lighted, no grotesque aspects.” But it didn’t seem like quite enough to justify watching Love for two hours plus.

I was mildly interested (certainly during the first half-hour or so) but I never felt riveted.

Love is basically an unexceptional love-gone-wrong story. It starts with Murphy (Karl Glusman), an aspiring Paris-based filmmaker who worships Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey and has a poster of Pasolini‘s Salo on his bedroom wall (which indicated to me that he’s probably into anal), expressing a certain despair about being anchored in a relationship with Omi (Klara Kristin), the blonde, very young mother of his infant son. Poor Murphy feels somewhat trapped, he says in voice-over. Omi’s inquisitive manner, he says, makes him feel like he’s married to the CIA.

Structurally the film is one long flashback flashback as Murphy thinks back to how he ruined a great, sexually ecstatic relationship with Electra (Aomi Muyock) by impregnating Omi, who was their next-door neighbor and with whom they’d enjoyed a little three-way action now and then. Murphy is distraught about how he let his thoughtless schlong run his life, and now he’s stuck with the consequences.

Murphy’s a half sympathetic character, but also a bit of an asshole. He doesn’t seem to work or collect a paycheck or do anything to earn money, but guys like this never seem to think about anything but their emotional longings or frustrations and whether or not they’re getting into some girl’s pants and whether they’re in a state of rock-hard or semi-aroused tumescence. Basically bulls in the field, sniffing around, looking to get their leg over.

It’s fair to call Love intriguing but under-developed and almost Woody Allen-esque (I know — a bizarre reference in this context) in that it feels like a first draft.  If there’s one characteristic of the vast majority of Woody films over the past 15 years it’s that they feel under-written and in need of further development.

Love is not conventionally boring, but I lost interest in it around the 80-minute mark. It just seemed to be plodding along, not risking much (not by my yardstick anyway) and not really trying to say or be something exceptional. Noe has always been an obviously skillful, visually audacious filmmaker, and Love is in no way poorly or indifferently composed. I was actually more taken with the handsome, well-framed cinematography during the non-sexual portions than during the penetration, gaspings, hand jobs, blowjobs and saliva baths.

Noe and his first-rate dp, Benoit Debie (Spring Breakers, Enter The Void, The Runaways, Irreversible), share a good eye. But Love never really builds into anything. The applicable terms are curiously flat, meandering, lacking a vital charge, not really necessary.