I Stand Alone

1998

Crime / Drama / Thriller

18
IMDb Rating 7.4 10 18310

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1hr 33 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by enicholson 9 / 10

The rage of a proud, bitter, luckless man

This fearless film may or may not be a masterpiece, but there is little about this film that feels false or inauthentic. Many have already compared this film to TAXI DRIVER; but TAXI DRIVER is more of a film about a man that is dragged to insanity by psychotic fantasies he can no longer resist. TAXI DRIVER does, however, share with SEUL CONTRE TEUS a sense of psycho-sexual determinism. The protagonists in both films are at least partly driven by sexual compulsions they either can not control, feel they can not control or badly desire to explore. Both films have memorable scenes that take place inside a porno theater, emphasizing the dominance sex and sexual compulsions have over each of the protagonists (though for different reasons in each of them).

SEUL CONTRE TEUS, however, is less of a film about an inexorable pull toward insanity and instead is more of a film about an inescapable rage -- the rage associated with a fiercely guarded sense of pride that has a strong tendency of violence toward anything that appears the least bit insulting; and a rage that comes from endless feelings of loneliness. The protagonist (known only as "The Butcher," which is his past profession) is consequently very vulnerable to feelings of humiliation and has little ability to make sound decisions in life. SEUL CONTRE TEUS is about the rage of those in the working classes that suffer the pain of a hard childhood, are punished for their crimes that mainly arise out of anger, and endure the humiliation of unemployment and unwantedness -- yet refuse to let the harshness of life knock them down for good. The Butcher refuses to lie down. He wants to fight back at whatever blocks his path. But, like an animal, he chooses his targets arbitrarily and impulsively. Those that he is most threatened by in reality offer little danger; and perhaps could instead offer friendship or even assistance.

The film features an astounding interior monologue that runs like an intensely embittered sermon (told through a voice over) throughout the duration of the film. Many of The Butcher's thoughts are intensely provocative and refreshingly, fearlessly insightful and profound. My favorite is probably the line that says (something like) "there is no revolution anymore; when we are all alone there is only revenge." Valuable lines like this are mixed in with incendiary rants against foreigners and homosexuals -- thoughts and emotions rooted in painfully stubborn pride and bitter humiliation, but which sometimes have the feel of some desperate, lost, apocryphal truth to them.

There are a couple of other qualities this film shares with TAXI DRIVER. For the most part, even though they are quite frightening, the protagonists in both films are sympathetic (though again for different reasons) and even charismatic. Also, both films have extremely violent climaxes that, thematically and psychologically, resemble the male orgasm gone psychotic. The conflation of sex and violence in both films is unmistakably real and psychologically (and perhaps politically) profound. Also, both films feature a twisted sense of redemption at the end (though I will say no more than that for fear of spoiling the endings of both films) -- twisted in the sense that there is a future and not all hope is lost; but it is a hope that is rooted in something unclean and false. I think most people will find the scene of reconciliation and redemption toward the end of SEUL CONTRE TEUS to be remarkably moving (at least until it turns into something perverse).

This film is not for everyone -- that's for sure. If TAXI DRIVER was more than you bargained for, then stay away from this film because this film is even more intense and brutal. But for those of you who desire, or even need, to see a film about the rage of a man who is disenfranchised and dispossessed and is driven toward fantasies and expressions of violence and perversity -- then here it is. This is for you.

Reviewed by eraceheadd 8 / 10

Warning: not for the weak, of body or mind.

A brilliantly disturbing film, unlike anything I have ever seen. This is an incredibly detailed account of how a disturbed human mind rationalizes everyday reality. It's like looking right into the mind of a man pushed to the brink, a man capable of anything. The film darkly builds as we watch the main character fall lower and lower, becoming more and more desperate. I love a movie that can capture an emotion so strongly, and this film defiantly grabs you and does not let go. The tension literally drips off the screen making it difficult at times to take, but like a car crash, you can't take your eyes off of it.

Noe's direction is excellent. The pace is slow and methodical and cut up with a surprising sound affect that makes you jump almost every time you hear it. This just adds to the disturbing, uneasy atmosphere that the film creates.

Its a trip that not all people should take, but those of you how are not easily offended, and have a strong stomach and a good eye for art, you should go far out of you way to see this film.

Reviewed by Chris Knipp 8 / 10

Céline: "Almost every desire a poor man has is a punishable offense."

Gaspar Noë's first full-length film seeks to provide, and sometimes achieves, an elegantly bleak picture of the world through the eyes of a French butcher whose life has been devolving from day one. The film begins as a kind of quick documentary life, narrated over still photos with the voice-over of the butcher, played by Philippe Nahon. From here forward the voice never leaves us, moving relentlessly forward with its declarations of gloom and anger. The narrator's negativism commands our attention and even our respect because of its intensity and clarity. Perhaps this man is just a depressive, a hopeless loser. But his anger and his articulateness command attention and create an irresistible and memorable voice -- a voice quite reminiscent of the writings of Louis-Ferdinand Céline ("Journey to the End of the Night," "Death on the Installment Plan"), who like Noë's protagonist was a nihilist, fascist, and anti-Semite, and likewise shocked with his bluntness of expression. Set in 1980, the story of "I Stand Alone"/"Seul contre tous" may also be meant to reflect the thinking of a certain French underclass of that time whose desperation and resentment toward growing minorities in the country and toward the rich and the liberal bourgeoisie led them to rally behind the far right political leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Philippe Nahon is strong in the central role. Indeed one can hardly imagine anybody else playing it. But all the characters Nahon interacts with tend to be little more than static cameos. There are even moments when we are not sure they exist, or when his declarations seem like fantasies, and this uncertainty undermines the otherwise forceful narrative. Unfortunately also the film tends to disintegrate into excess verbiage and alternative finales in its last chapters. The nonstop narration has seemed to work well up to then, but when Noë resorts to an overlapping second voice and approaches the father's sexual violation of his daughter through panning off into the street, the voice-over becomes a wall preventing us from experiencing what's been dealt with and the hitherto blunt manner -- the obscene slangy language and the gun-shot blast divisions of images and the boldly declarative intertitles (Noë is of the nothing-succeeds-like-excess school of film-making) -- comes to seem a bit of a facade. As in the later "Irréversible" it seems as though the director's desire to shock and exploit ingenious and attention-getting cinematic techniques is greater than his willingness to develop a story and characters in depth. Nonetheless there are strong signs of a bold and original talent on display here, and of an independent point of view.

The respected critic Jonathan Rosenbaum went overboard when he classified "I Stand Alone" as a "masterpiece." Noë strives so hard to achieve profundity he dupes himself into the certain conviction that he has achieved it. Whether "I Stand Alone" will stand the test of time is a question only time, not Noë or Rosenbaum, can decide.

The film is not particularly well served by a Strand Leasing DVD providing a slightly blurry print and no extras. The Menu design however is rather handsome.

Watched on Netflix DVD November 2005.

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