Gaspar Noe's Irreversible is uncompromising and visceral, an essential piece of modern cinema. Punctuated by dazzling avant-garde techniques, the film depicts, in reverse-chronological order, a woman's rape and her boyfriend and friend's subsequent hunt for vengeance through the underworld of Paris. Confrontational yet influential, Irreversible has polarized audiences since its release in 2002, making it until now almost impossible to study dispassionately.
This first book-length study of Irreversible situates Noe's work in the ecosystem of contemporary French media, exploring how Irreversible and a larger-scale cinema du corps actually inspired France's film resurgence in the early twenty-first century. From there, Palmer shows Irreversible to be one of the most subversive star vehicles in recent world cinema, in the form of its iconic lead performers, Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, and Albert Dupontel. Investigating the spectrum of reactions created by Noe's film - through its pugnacious stylistic design, its on-screen deconstruction of Paris, its international critical reception and its unexpectedly utopian counterpoints to violence and despair - the book generates a new rational dialogue about Irreversible that challenges any instinct simply to reject or condemn it.