Movies

When to Leave Climax

A personalized guide.

A still from Climax: a dance scene featuring people in various stages of enjoyment while the central blond figure struts forward in black boots, a purple bikini.
That feeling when you walk out of Climax at precisely the right moment. A24

Climax, the new film by French provocateur Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter the Void, Love), begins with a modern dance sequence so euphoric, high-spirited, and occasionally anatomically miraculous that you may immediately begin to suspect the movie has nowhere to go but downhill. You wouldn’t be wrong. The horror-tinged feature, which finds a group of young dancers in a Dionysian daze at a remote, abandoned school after one of them spikes the sangria with LSD, isn’t much more than a visually imaginative update on Reefer Madness with some pretentious philosophizing (“death is an extraordinary experience”) sprinkled throughout because … France?

But if you’re down for giving Noé’s latest a try without committing to the entirety of its 95-minutes-but-definitely-feels-longer runtime, here’s a personalized guide for when you might want to duck out of the party.

If you can’t stand postmodern gimmickry: Don’t come at all. You won’t get past the closing credits, which come at the beginning. (Don’t ask.)

If you like postmodern gimmickry but don’t want to sit through nearly 10 straight minutes of vapid talking-head interviews: Leave two minutes in.

If you like postmodern gimmicky, are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of vapid talking-head interviews, and just want to check out this incredible dance sequence: Leave 16 minutes in, or attempt to endure until the 46-minute mark to watch all the great dancing in the movie.

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of vapid talking-head interviews—but can’t stand glum stoner talk about abortion: Leave 20 minutes in.

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of vapid talking-head interviews and glum stoner talk about abortion—but you dislike feeling nauseous: Flee 50 minutes in, when Noé begins to expertly use music, sound design, and handheld camerawork to make viewers feel what his characters feel. Thankfully, he can’t replicate the inevitable stench of the windowless room when a woman spontaneously pisses on the middle of the dance floor. (Please no one give him the idea of using Smell-O-Vision.)

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of staged talking-head interviews, glum stoner talk about abortion, and nausea-inducing filmmaking—but won’t be able to stop wondering why the involuntarily dosed (and thinly drawn) characters don’t just retreat to their rooms, close the doors, and ride out the high instead of constantly subjecting themselves to the kind of pained nonstop screaming you associate with a 19th-century asylum: Leave 56 minutes in. Same goes for if you know you’re the type who won’t be able to stop questioning why the women are still wearing high heels hours into the night.

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of staged talking-head interviews, glum stoner talk about abortion, nausea-inducing filmmaking, and characters whose motivations don’t make sense—but you hate horror: Leave 65 minutes in, when one character starts slashing at herself for really no reason.

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of staged talking-head interviews, glum stoner talk about abortion, nausea-inducing filmmaking, characters whose motivations don’t make sense, and horror—but you’ve got no patience for killing off a child just to show how real this shit is: Leave 76 minutes in. Ugh.

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of staged talking-head interviews, glum stoner talk about abortion, nausea-inducing filmmaking, characters whose motivations don’t make sense, horror, and exploitative child death—but don’t care to sit through a lesbian make-out that feels a lot more dread-filled and potentially coercive than Noé seems to realize: Leave 79 minutes in. Why.

If you like postmodern gimmickry and modern dance, and are OK with sitting through nearly 10 minutes of staged talking-head interviews, glum stoner talk about abortion, nausea-inducing filmmaking, characters whose motivations don’t make sense, horror, exploitative child death, and a quasi-coercive lesbian make-out—but just don’t care to be reminded “Drugs! Are! Bad!”: Leave 89 minutes in. Or don’t come at all, because Climax really isn’t about anything more than that.