I Stand Alone

08/18/2019 12:39

Film: I Stand Alone (Seul contre tous)

Year: 1998

Director: Gaspar Noé

Writer: Gaspar Noé

Starring: Philippe Nahon, Blandine Lenoir and Frankie Pain

 

Review:

This was a film that I’m going to be honest, I had never heard of. I have seen the writer/director Gaspar Noé’s other films so I was intrigued as I believe this is first, if not, one of his first movies. Wasn’t necessarily sure what I was going to get coming in though if I’m perfectly honest. The synopsis is a horse meat butcher’s life and mind begins to breakdown as he lashes out against various factions of society while attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter.

We are given a voice-over of the life of a Le Boucher (Philippe Nahon). It is kind of a tragic story of how his parent’s conceived him and how he lost everything. He had his own butcher shop, but one day his daughter who is mute had her first period. She tried to walk to his shop where a man came on to her. Her father thought he raped her and he stabbed the man to death. This sent him to prison and he lost his business with his daughter going to a institution.

Once he gets out, he takes a job in a bar that is run by Sa Maitresse (Frankie Pain). They end up becoming a couple and she is with child. She decides to sell her bar and move to another city, using the money to buy a shop for Le Boucher to open up a new store. She refuses to pay for the lease though as she feels it is a bad deal. Le Boucher goes down a path where Sa Maitresse and her mother, Sa Belle-Mere (Martine Audrain) belittle him or at least he thinks they are. He is beaten down by what they say. He finally snaps and tries to make his own way, but it isn’t easy for a 50 year old man with a criminal record and no money.

Now I decided to go a little vaguer on the recap here, as there’s not a lot that really happens. We are really watching this man as he goes down this dark path. The film has a voice-over from Le Boucher and there’s actually not a lot of dialogue. It’s giving us his thoughts on things and to be honest it is really depressing. I was thinking about if this was a horror film or not while watching it. To be honest, in the normal sense it’s not. I’ll get into why this definitely can be considered horror with some of the things that are happening. When it comes to Noé, he doesn’t make films in the traditional sense as he’s very avant-garde.

The first thing to cover is that I felt bad for Le Boucher. His life has really been a struggle and he hasn’t had a lot of good things that happen to him. The mother of his daughter, Sa Fille (Blandine Lenoir), left him due to her affliction. He is doing his best and the real big issue is that he has anger issues. He snapped when he thought something happened to his child. I can’t fault him for getting revenge there, but it was done to someone that didn’t do what he thought. The rage he went into was in error. He really just wants to be able live a normal life, but he doesn’t have the breaks needed to do so.

That actually moves me into the next point. This movie is looking at class as well. Le Boucher is talking about how the rich get whatever they need. They can commit the crimes he has, but because they have money, they can get away with it. He on the other hand has to be careful. Whatever he does he will be punished for. There’s not a lot of money to be had around him and that includes jobs. Even those that he is friends with can’t help him as they barely have enough money for them. This is a bleak way of looking at life and is heartbreaking if I’m honest.

Le Boucher does do some things that I really despise him for as well though. That is something that I really have to commend Noé with. He has created a character that was I pulling for, but then he reveals things about his character that make him despicable. He attacks his pregnant girlfriend; he makes some racist comments toward a black person, he makes homophobic comments and what he wants to do with his daughter. I really liked to be challenged when watching a film, but it really made me despise him. Part of it is though that he is lashing out after being broken by life, which I get, but it is hard to pull for a guy with some of these things.

I want to move next to the soundtrack of the film. To be honest, I really didn’t notice it outside of a scene where he hitchhikes and the guy puts on a real upbeat house-like music. I thought that scene was fun. I had a major issue with the film which was due to the voice-over narration that we get throughout. I don’t normally hate it, but here it really just dominates everything. I think the film could have shown us a bit more instead of just giving his inner thoughts the whole time. Noé is really going for giving us a morality tale and making us think, but it’s a bit heavy handed with how it is presented. I like it a bit more subtle.

This film really only runs about 90 minutes, but because of it being told to us mostly, I think the pacing is hurt by it. I will say that it does build tension. That aspect of the film is good and I could feel as things get worse, Le Boucher is running out of money and he has to turn to crime to survive, I start to wonder what he’ll do. The ending has something that I didn’t care for and seeing how it actually ends is kind of disgusting. It really does question morality. The question is also there, do we hate him for what he’s going to do, but is it living in the low income area make it more acceptable?

Something I didn’t have an issue with was the performance of Nahon. He is really the only character we see for the whole film. I think he did a lot with facial expressions. He visits someone who tells him he looks rough and he does. Definitely a man who has been beaten down by life and I do have to say is sad. The rest of the cast does round out for what is needed.

The last thing to cover would be the effects, which are really good. Noé has a way of using practical effects that makes you question if what you’re seeing is real or not. I know that it’s not, but if you can make me think it is, you’re doing something right. The ending sequence definitely does it and it is great. There aren’t a lot of effects outside of that sequence. I do have give him credit for the film is shot as well. He really captured how dirty both cities we are in, which is crazy because one of them is in Paris. It is also fitting that he is talking about World War II and how his father died in a death camp. They’re in a ghetto for all of this film, but not like ones during the war. I really think he is saying something there with the mirroring of the war and life since.

Now with that said, I did enjoy this film and I think there’s a really good message here. Trying to question the morality of someone who you feel bad for while also despising for some of the actions they’re taking. This is a film that really makes you think. Would I necessarily call this a horror film? Not in the traditional sense, but we are watching an avant-garde film from someone who doesn’t do things conventional. It is extremely bleak and the things that happen can be quite horrific in the terms of society. I do think that the voice-over narration is a bit much and makes the message he’s going for a bit heavy fisted. I think Nahon performance was really good and his look just fits the character. There’s not a lot in the way of effects, but the final sequence have some of the most real ones I’ve ever seen done practically. It is also shot very well and capturing the grittiness of the areas it is taking place. I don’t love this film; I think that it’s really good. I would say that overall I think it is above average for me.

 

My Rating: 7 out of 10