I saw Beau Is Afraid twice. That is to say that I spent six hours in the extremely particular universe of Ari Aster, American cantor of anxiety-provoking cinema since Hereditary and Midsommar.

The second viewing only confirmed the impression felt at the first: for admirers who loved the first two feature films to the point of worshiping the 36-year-old filmmaker, this new opus will be a delight. For others, not so much…

The story begins with an evocation of the birth of Beau (Joaquin Phoenix), a guy for whom happiness is a non-existent concept. In the office of his shrink (Stephen McKinley Henderson), he explains that he has to leave the next day for Wasserton, a fictional town where his mother (Patti Lupone) lives, just to commemorate the death of his father. This relatively simple starting point will trigger a three-hour nightmarish delirium, divided into a few distinct parts.

Living in a dilapidated apartment in a very urban neighborhood frequented by a colorful fauna, Beau is the victim of various events that cause him to miss his flight to Wasserton.

When he wakes up injured in the bedroom of a rebellious young girl from a family whose over-benevolence is bound to be suspect, Beau finds himself at the mercy of a doctor (Nathan Lane) who treats him in his private home. , with his beloved wife (Amy Ryan). It is in this part that we will meet a character – former soldier in post-traumatic shock – that we will find in all the following episodes. Played by Denis Ménochet, who puts all his ardor into the crises of a colossus who is calmed with tranquilizers injected into the back, the latter is lodged by the same family as a former comrade in arms of a son who disappeared in the war.

We will not describe here all the episodes of a story as abundant as it is strange, but let’s say that Beau – in a part that seemed superfluous to us – finds himself at some point in the middle of the forest in front of a kind of theatrical sect – we calls The Orphans of the Forest – whose members recreate on stage a parallel family life that Beau, now an old man, might have projected himself into. Obviously, this chapter, like all the others, ends very badly.

Then comes the visit to the very chic house of Wasserton, also marked by some very successful macabre gags, where Beau finds a childhood friend (Parker Posey) with whom he consents to a sexual relationship whose purpose causes a phenomenon, let’s say, bizarre . It is also in this episode that Beau will learn the truth about his father and that his life will be put on trial in a stadium…

In this devilishly Freudian epic, where we shout a lot, we can subscribe – or not – to the type of humor of the filmmaker in a story that nevertheless includes tragic elements at the base. It is from this angle that Joaquin Phoenix approached his character. True to form, the interpreter of the Joker plunges headfirst into this permanent nightmare without preserving himself.

On arrival, Beau Is Afraid (Beau afraid in French version) is nothing like a friendly film. Be warned.