Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Stand Alone (1998)

Note: This review was originally posted on a message board forum. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Having been so impressed with Irreversible, I tracked down I Stand Alone, also written and directed by Gaspar Noé, after I found out that the one character (known as "The Butcher") who makes a cameo in an early scene in Irreversible, is actually the main character from Gaspar Noé's earlier film I Stand Alone. That fact alone is fascinating, that this character would recur in another of the writer/director's films. In fact, another portion of the character's life is told in yet another, even earlier, film - Carne - which I'd also like to see, if I could find it...

Anyhow, I Stand Alone is not as much an artistic masterpiece as Irreversible, and not as graphic or intense either, but coming from the same mind, you can still expect high quality. It's the story of The Butcher, named for his preferred profession (and not, like I suspected, for any reputation as a brutal murderer), and his struggle against the hardships of living a poor life. His earlier life, including a troubled childhood and a brief period of relative prosperity, is told in recap - and I believe this includes some or all of what transpires in Carne - and the story picks up after The Butcher gets out of prison for assaulting a man he mistakenly thought had raped his young daughter.

It's a very depressing tale, and a lot of the film involves following The Butcher around while we get to listen to his thoughts - lots of poetic existential despair, that I could really relate to. And it's fascinating the way The Butcher justifies the questionable acts he commits, or considers committing, such as violently assaulting his pregnant wife, and gunning down the rich and the people who insult and oppress him. And his justifications are frighteningly convincing - I certainly felt myself sympathizing with this character. He's not a nice guy, but I don't think he's evil, either; he's just a victim of circumstance in a bleak, insensitive, dishonest world.

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