8/24/04 and 8/25/04
youve seen "Friday Night", directed by the great
Claire Denis, you might imagine that another French film called
"Intimate Strangers" would be treading in the same
waters. In Claire Deniss film, a woman is about to make
a big change in her life. All her belongings are packed and
shes ready to move in with her boyfriend. Its Friday
evening. Shes on her way to a friends house for
supper, her last night out as a single woman, when she becomes
ensnared in heavy traffic caused by a transit strike. In a burst
of communitarian problem solving, motorists are offering rides
to the stranded. The central figure in "Friday Night"
offers a ride to a man, a stranger, whos walking in the
direction she is slowly driving. I wont tell you more
about that film, except to say that its worth seeing,
and that its very different from "Intimate Strangers."
"Intimate Strangers" is the story of another kind
of intimacy, and it too, is well worth seeing.
Director Patrice Leconte likes to explore the attraction of
opposites. In his previous film, "Man On The Train",
he paired an aging, loquacious teacher with a taciturn bank
robber, two men hardly cut from the same cloth. But in "Intimate
Strangers" his protagonists are barely made of the same
William is a tax lawyer. He lives where he was born, a 6th floor
apartment in Paris. He doesnt just live there. He works
there too. The outer rooms serve as his office and his clients
come to him. So he works, eats and sleeps in an isolated nest,
high above and far removed from the clutter and clamor of the
world. William has inherited the apartment, the business, and
even a secretary, from his father. Continuity could be his middle
name. William is a buttoned down man.
Anna, on the other hand, never knew her father, who died in
an automobile accident when she was born. She grew up on the
road, in a trailer, with her peripatetic mother, following the
sun. Stability is not in her history. She even works in a luggage
shop. Shes been married for four years, the last year
of which has been troubled. She needs professional help.
And thats what she thinks shes getting when she
walks into Williams office at six oclock one week
day evening. Anna, who is dyslexic, has mistaken Williams
office with that of a psychiatrist at the other end of the hall.
And before a quietly astounded William can correct her, Anna
has begun to unload her psychic burdens, most notably, details
of her wounded marriage.
When she returns a week later, William tries to tell her a mistake
has been made, but a combination of diffidence, curiosity and
attraction conspire against his intention. Anna continues to
unburden herself. And even though its only her second
visit, we notice a bit of perkiness in her demeanor. And shes
a tad less dowdy than on her first visit.
I will reveal no more of the story. "Intimate Strangers"
is a bit of a mystery, a psychological mystery. With impeccable
pacing, Leconte, who co-wrote the script, teases us through
almost the entire film with little more than words. In that
respect, "Intimate Strangers" is reminiscent of the
recently released "Before Sunset", also shot in Paris.
Both of these films featured fine writing and terrific performances.
If youre looking for car chases and mayhem, "Intimate
Strangers" will leave you wanting. But if you want an intelligent,
grown up movie, dont miss this one.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.