An exchange from Pinoyexchange:
Don't bother. Irreversible is just your plain old-fashioned revenge story. If the director didn't tell the story backwards, there wouldn't be anything to the movie. It's so gimmicky it has no impact.
Astroantiquity: Maybe you failed to see I Stand Alone since these movies interweave. Furthermore, it's not gimmicky, it has something to say which have been expounded on I Stand Alone and continues on to Irreversible. And, haphazardly thrown comments aren't appreciated much.
I Stand Alone I thought another gimmicky shocker, with maybe an interesting performance by Nahon, but really, this is the same territory Scorsese covered with Taxi Driver (only he did it with more cinematic flair).
astroantiquity: Well, gimmicky it may be (with nods to a gamut of directors, William Castle to say the least-- The Father of All Gimmicks). But, I found the movie to be weirdly fascinating and moving. If on a very visceral level. I guess, to get into it you have to be somehow on the same level as the characters (as what the inestimable Ms.Crawford would have done with a role), and be like them in a way. Now, Taxi Driver. I don't think that it serves that movie right to drag it into this, it has firmly entrenched itself in filmdom.
Yeah. Alienation is a Very Big Theme for most filmmakers nowadays; the trick is to say something actually new with it. Noe tries to break through with shock tactics (YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS TO LEAVE THE ROOM...29...28) which is cute and all, but does it say something beyond what Taxi Driver said, and far more eloquently, years before?
Taxi Driver is rooted firmly in New York--I've seen one or two of the street corners where it was filmed, and the character isn't too far from some of the crazies you find there; it also has as a source of inspiration Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground.
Where does I Stand Alone come from? Are there people stalking the streets of France, muttering racist, misogynistic rants? All I saw were people enjoying their coffee and croissants. If they do say something racist or misogynistic, it's in a different flavor, under the guise of hypocrisy, of "civilized" European rhetoric. The more violent and direct racist expressions are mostly by younger men (it's even set in the past--in the 1980s--to avoid dealing with the very different flavor of racist rhetoric in France today).
Granted some leap of imagination is involved, having a crazed Vietnam war vet driving around Manhattan, or having a crazed butcher wander around the streets of Paris; what gives the game away are the various encounters of the different protagonists. When Travis Bickle talks to Wizard, or has a date with Betsy that goes horrifyingly wrong, or tries to reason with Iris to leave her whoring, it's a comedy of manners that points up just how disconnected Bickle is from these people (Schrader's script on this regard is brilliant); when Nahon's butcher meets people it's just an excuse to punch them, shoot them, or fuck them; the real point of Noe's movie is the wandering monologue that runs almost the length of the film (and has no connection with everyday, real France).
No, the worlds of I Stand Alone and Irreversible (including that hilariously staged rape) are solely in the mind of Noe. Interesting, and there's a place for his kind of self-referential cinema (somewhere on the same shelf as Lars Von Triers and his comically blinkered vision of America in Dogville), but it's just not top of my list, because it doesn't touch the real world as we see it. It doesn't even portray (as say Kim Ki Duk or Michael Haneke, two shock filmmakers I admire far more, do) human relationships very convincingly.