Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Stand Alone (1998)

Director: Gaspar Noe

Starring: Philippe Nahon, Blandine Lenoir, Frankie Pain, Martine Audrain, Jean-Francois Rauger

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the bowels of France

Plot: France, 1980. A retired butcher fights to survive. After abandoning his teenage daughter, and hoping to rebuild a new life, he moves to Lille with his pregnant lover. He doesn't love her. He likes even less living at his mother-in-law's apartment. Quickly his hopes turn into bitterness, and this bitterness into obsessions. Violence explodes. The man returns to Paris and tries to restart his life again. He counts on his luck to find work and new friends. But both are hard to find. In this city, like elsewhere, living is a selfish act. Alone against everyone the ex-butcher stays in the hotel room where many years ago his daughter was conceived. Without a penny and with the sole company of a gun charged with three bullets, he doesn't see clearly what the purpose of his life is. His stomach cries for food. His brain orders him to take revenge. And his heart...

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? I could but with so many movies to watch it's not likely.


Stacey recently left a comment suggesting this, Noe's first film, along with his second, IRREVERSIBLE (2002) and a couple of others, all of which have been on my radar just waiting to give them a spin. In short, I liked it. In the first few minutes you get an idea of exactly what you're going to get for the next 93 in this darkly funny (it's got some REALLY black humor) and disturbing picture.

What you can't know are the dark places you'll suddenly find yourself in. Nahon (The Butcher) is fantastic. He plays miserable really, really well. He's pretty much the picture. There are other characters but this guy is in every scene and has a lot of dialogue, most of it being his narrated thoughts. I can't recall another movie with more subtitles being cranked out as fast as these. After seeing the film I do my usual look online to see what other people have to say and I was surprised to see so much nasty chatter about the pregger punching bag scene and the incest angle but then maybe I'm not so surprised.

When The Butcher is pushed hard one night by his pregnant wife, he snaps and starts wailing on her baby bump. It's pretty harsh although I am somewhat desensitized a bit by the thousands of movies I've seen. Regardless, I can recognize the impact a scene like this must have on the unsuspecting public and the balls that it takes to do something no one else has. I appreciate that. But it's the implied incest at the end that surprised me. It's creepy but not run-out-of-the-room-screaming-in-horror-shocking. I don't want to play that game of comparing movies but I've seen it applied in a more distasteful manner in several other films. What struck me, though, was the dream he has just prior to the end when we don't know it's a dream. THAT had some impact. Seeing his daughter lying on the floor dying was horrifying and I felt relieved when he shot her a second and final time to put her out of her (and my) misery. After that scene played out, the implied incest that was about to happen seemed OK (not acceptable, of course, but tame in comparison.)

It's a great first feature film for Noe and I'm keen to watch the other two films he's directed since (a fourth is due out this year). Don't watch it for the shock value because you have probably seen flicks that put out more of that than this one but watch it for the great performance by Nahon and his character's gradual descent into his dark, mentally disturbed world. You're definitely taking a trip to a place you haven't been before. Whether or not you mail a postcard afterward is up to you.

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