See Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible (Irréversible)” restored in 2K and recut in chronological order in the brand-new “Straight Cut (Inversion Intégrale).”

Content warning: Irreversible contains extreme depictions of violence, rape, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, strobe effects, disorienting cinematography and soundtrack, and whatever else you can think of. If you could be negatively affected by something, it’s most likely on full display in either cut of Irreversible you watch. I warned you.

Have you seen Gaspar Noé’s breakthrough picture Irreversible? If so, you may be entitled to financial compensation for emotional distress. Meanwhile, if you’re me, you’ve signed up to write about two separate cuts of this absolutely traumatizing film for your entertainment. Yes, hide your kids, Irreversible is back in theaters, but not just the original film (with a new 2K remaster), but also the ever so elusive “Straight Cut,” a director re-cut from Noé that premiered at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival. This cut re-purposes the material to re-reverse the film back into chronological order as opposed to the original cut playing with audiences putting together how these characters descended so deeply into hell in reverse order. Does watching the film in chronological order reveal new things about Noé’s brutal, devastating urban thriller? Or is it simply another exercise in traumatizing audiences?


Monica Belucci as Alex in Gaspar Noé’s IRREVERSIBLE: STRAIGHT CUT. Photo courtesy of Altered Innocence.

Alex (Monica Belucci) is a young Parisian woman living a seemingly normal cosmopolitan life with her boyfriend, Marcus (Vincent Cassel). Marcus, while affectionate and sexually fulfilling to Alex, is a boorish partier whom Alex finds dismissive of her needs. Meanwhile, their mutual friend, and Alex’s ex, Pierre (Albert Dupontel) is a more reserved, kind partner to Alex, but leaves her sexually underwhelmed. While all three are civil friends, tensions remain, and when Alex leaves a party early due to the unbecoming behavior of her two partners, she is brutally attacked and raped in an underground tunnel by a random man. Left traumatized, beaten, and comatose, Marcus and Pierre set out on a manhunt across Paris to exact revenge on the man who did this to Alex. This search leads them to the (literal) bowels of Paris, confronted with the darkest, most primal instincts known to man.


Vincent Cassel as Marcus in Gaspar Noé’s IRREVERSIBLE: STRAIGHT CUT. Photo courtesy of Altered Innocence.

Irreversible is one of those “descent into hell” films that I’m almost ashamed to admit that I like, if “like” is even the correct word to use. To say that this isn’t an absolutely show-stopping display of psychopathic, coke-fueled fervor would be dismissing the film simply on account of its content that was deemed insanely offensive even by early 2000s standards. There isn’t an era where Irreversible won’t be a film that absolutely pushes the boundaries of what a viewer is willing to endure, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for choosing not to endure such an ordeal.


Monica Belucci as Alex in Gaspar Noé’s IRREVERSIBLE: STRAIGHT CUT. Photo courtesy of Altered Innocence.

Irreversible: Straight Cut doesn’t take away any of that horrifying, brutal content, but rather presents it in a way that drastically changes the pace and intention of the story. Still, what remains is still very much so Irreversible, but I wouldn’t say it’s a definitive version by any means. One of many points the film makes is the piecing together of clues in a film that plays backwards as to how someone can be pushed to commit such an act of violence against someone in the opening scene, and what that person had to have done to “deserve” such a fate. Then, playing backwards, we’re introduced to the more human elements of Alex, Marcus, and Pierre before they were thrown into the pits of hell. I will admit, getting to see Marcus’s good side first does help humanize the soon-to-be animal of violence to justify why one would go to such lengths for revenge, but certainly still makes no excuses for the seriously twisted person he is. Meanwhile, experiencing Pierre from his most pathetic state attempting to explain his sexual shortcomings to Alex on the Paris Metro and then finding himself radicalized by pure rage at the sight of his brutalized ex is also quite an interesting change of pace from the re-cut. The film’s shocking ending also feels particularly “earned” here, not in that it’s satisfying to experience from an audience perspective, but rather in how the horrifyingly nihilistic final twist of the knife does hold a substantial amount more weight in the Straight Cut.


Albert Dupontel as Pierre in Gaspar Noé’s IRREVERSIBLE: STRAIGHT CUT. Photo courtesy of Altered Innocence.

Still, playing Irreversible so, forgive my pun, straightly, does present some unfortunately unavoidable editing problems, as the vignettes that play in order feel much more disjointed in context than the sequences playing backwards since the intros and outtros of each calculated vignette are made for the type of film Irreversible plays as in its original form. It also makes much of the expository dialogue at the “end” of the film (what would be the beginning of the original cut) feel rather overwrought and obvious, when in the context of the original cut, it helped us begin to piece together the mystery of Alex’s attack. It feels out of place because it literally is out of place. Somehow, in its simpler form, it plays out in a clunkier manner.


Monica Belucci as Alex in Gaspar Noé’s IRREVERSIBLE: STRAIGHT CUT. Photo courtesy of Altered Innocence.

There are benefits and drawbacks to Irreversible: Straight Cut, but nothing enough for me to recommend this version of the film over the film’s original cut. Something about starting in such a disoriented, broken state and slowly putting together a brutal story of revenge and violence to get back to the quiet, domestic life they all lived before the events of the film almost felt like a relief. It’s a film that Noé made for backwards viewing, and the film’s screenplay and pace structure themselves for that. The Straight Cut, while also cut by Noé, definitely feels more like a wonderfully crafted novelty, but nothing that completely changes the way I view Irreversible. It’s still a repugnantly violent and depressing film that now gets to be a little more conventionally violent and depressing. Not a bad cut by any means, the film is still incredibly impressive (albeit impossible to love), but this is more of a thoughtful treat for those willing to experience the film more than once than a new, or even ideal way to watch the film. Go for the original cut first, which I believe will also be playing with the Straight Cut in certain places.

I’ll write about the original cut one day and how Noé’s work deeply affected young me, but maybe another day. *wink wink*

In select theaters beginning February 10th, 2023.

Irreversible Straight Cut Poster

Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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