French director Gaspar Noe has kept a pretty low profile since his 2002 drama Irreversible
, notorious for its brutal nine-minute anal rape scene. But this epic, psychedelic mindfuck confirms him once again as the cinema's most imaginative nihilist (a conflicted honor if, like me, you consider nihilism a failure of the imagination). The main characters are a young Frenchman and his sister living at the margins of the Tokyo underworld, he as a drug dealer and she as a stripper; after the young man is shot by police and dies on the floor of a grimy toilet, his spirit floats omnisciently over the city (consistent with his recent study of the Tibetan Book of the Dead) and keeps tabs on his vulnerable sibling. The colored lights of nocturnal Tokyo provide an apt jumping-off point for Noe's drugged-out imagery, and his nicely calibrated story line reveals the siblings' tragic past before circling back to the present and what the future might hold. It's a dark and commanding vision, reaching for the heavens even as it wallows in the muck. In English and subtitled Japanese.