I Stand Alone

This film was recently added to Netflix’ repertoire and I know a few of you, such as Tom, have already seen it – but I don’t believe a thread has been dedicated to it. I have some points about the story below which might be considered spoilers, but this movie isn’t so much about surprises as sitting through the entire experience. If you have plans to watch this and don’t want to know about the plot, read no further.

I Stand Alone affected me exactly as intended: I was disgusted by the protagonist, who slithers at the slimy bottom of the existentialist barrel. Unlike recent movies, like The Hours, which slathers the self-absorbed characters in the grease of political correctness before forcing them down your throat, I Stand Alone gives the audience the opportunity to chew on the protagonist’s foibles and even choke on them a little.

The profession of butcher for lead character is absolutely perfect in its brutal imagery: He works with unliving flesh, the only purpose of which is to sustain the life of people – or “talking meat,” as he calls them. Those coupled words illustrate how empty his life is. It’s totally devoid of soul or spirit.

The climax of the film really sucked me in. The “dream sequence” was incredibly intense with its rapid subtitles and the babbling French; it was an effort to keep my eyes on both the words and action of the scene. After the fantasy ends and he embraces his daughter, I felt myself relax and even begin to like the butcher a bit. It seemed he found that there is some value in human contact and sharing.

But then the scene went on a bit long. He was hugging too much.

Well, they’re French. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

Then, he kisses her neck… a little too close to her chest area. Twice.

Hmmm.

Then the scene cuts and he’s sliding his fingers between her reluctant legs. This is followed by a soliloquy about how society wouldn’t understand the love he and his daughter share. His mute daughter who apparently cannot communicate with anyone in any way. He’s still undecided about having sex with her, but in truth, sees nothing wrong with it.

This is rape. And the butcher is even more despicable than ever.

This film is staying with me, although it has no redeeming characters or message. Well, other than the message of “If life is pointless and empty, why bother with rules?” This movie is beyond the simple existential emptiness of The Stranger; this butcher lives in a greasy, vacuous blackness and he brings the audience into that sticky night. After turning off the DVD, I felt like I needed a shower.

Irreversible confirms that he did rape his daughter, if you’re morbidly curious.

I really didn’t expect the guy to have a conscience, so I can’t say I’m surprised. Did it result in another unintended pregnancy? If so, it would fit the theme.

We shouldn’t say any more, Jack. But you should rent Irreversible, which is on DVD. BTW, I wonder if I Stand Alone opens with the same device as Irreversible: there are some characters talking; we have no idea who they are, but it turns out they’re from Noe’s previous movie. Could that be the significance of the three men in the bar at the opening of I Stand Alone.

I didn’t really care for I Stand Alone. With the exception of the opening exposition and the ending (both of which were great), it felt like a largely artless rant, a long lingering and grating look at the French equivalent of Holden Caulfield at fifty.

Also, unlike Irreversible, it seemed the shocks were too calculated and gratuitous. The title card counting down thirty seconds for the audience to leave made me realize that Noe probably really dug it when people walked out of Irreversible. I’m all for shock value when it’s intergrated into the storytelling – which is what Irrversible excelled at – but if it’s the director self-consciously poking at the audience, I get a little put off.

Anyway, I thought I Stand Alone was a bit sophomoric in both senses of the word. But I think Irreversible is a much more richly realized version of what Noe was trying to accomplish.

 -Tom

Irreversible confirms that he did rape his daughter, if you’re morbidly curious.

BTW, I think that’s pretty clear from the way I Stand Alone ends.

The power of the ending is that he imagines the worst possible thing he could do and decides, only for a moment, not to do it. The camera then cuts away as he begins to do just what he had dreamed of. He is obviously a man without any self-control and I think it’s clear that at the end of I Stand Alone, he not only rapes his daughter, but then kills her.

 -Tom

Irreversible is now in the queue.

One thing I found very irritating about I Stand Alone was the “gunshot zoom” device. The director was screaming “LOOK HERE!”, “NOW HERE!” The scenes might have played out better with a bit more subtlety.

Overall, I feel ambiguous about the film. I can’t say I enjoyed or hated it, but my mind keeps turning it over to find a worthwhile theme. Probably because it’s my first time viewing it and I had no pre-conceptions, my brain is still trying the shake the story and see what falls out.

You say it was all only for shock value? It was shocking, but if that’s all there is then I agree, it is disappointing. I’m hoping Irreversible will flesh it out a little more.

Okay, that was a bad pun. Sad, even.