Intimate Strangers (Confidences Trop
isn't a household name like Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino, however
French director Patrice Leconte has quietly been putting together one of the
most impressive bodies of work in modern cinema. He has made terrific,
quirky thrillers (Monsieur Hire), romances (The Hairdresser's
Husband), period pieces (Ridicule) and dramas (The Girl on the
Bridge). Last year's The Man on the Train was one of his
best yet, an intense drama about an aging schoolteacher and an aging robber
envying each other's lives.
film is Intimate Strangers. As always in Leconte's
films, it has elements of comedy, drama, action, sex, deceit and most of
all, Leconte's pet theme, missed opportunities. His films are usually
about people who have repressed their desires finally trying to force themselves out of
the safety of their lifestyles and into adventures that may or may not be
good for them. While this is not Leconte's best film (it's a little too
reminiscent of the even better Monsieur Hire), it is still much better than
most of the stuff being made in Hollywood.
starts with a deceptively simple premise. William Faber (Fabrice
Luchini) is a middle-aged tax attorney who is stuck in a rut. He
lives in the same apartment he has his entire life. He works the same
job he always has (and his father did before him.) His wife has left
him for a gym instructor. He is jealous, angry and miserable with
his life. Everything changes, however, seemingly by accident. A
beautiful woman named Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) walks into his office,
mistaking it for the psychiatrist's office down the hall. By the time
Faber realizes the error, she is sharing intimate details about her personal
life with him. He is torn, he tries to explain the mistake, but he is
also fascinated by what she is telling him.
In a lesser director's
hands, this gimmicky mistaken identity plot could be played like a rerun of
Three's Company. However, Leconte is too talented and too smart
to play the situation for broad comedy. He recognizes the humor of the
situation. He also realizes the pathos and the desperation that causes
these two lonely people to continue their little appointments even when the
truth is brought to light. He delves into the dangerous corners
of the circumstances. What does she get from the relationship?
Did she really know what she was doing from the very beginning? Who is
the mysterious guy on the motor scooter? What is the deal with her
possibly abusive husband?
who also starred in Leconte's similarly voyeuristic late 80s classic
Monsieur Hire, is terrific in the role of a woman who has been so
bruised by life that it seems she only feels whole when she is being used.
And yet, she relishes the sensual power that she has over Faber and it
intoxicates her. The
complaint that Anna is just a slightly older version of Bonnaire's Hire
character of Alice is a valid one. I would be more bothered by that
fact if both characters weren't so interesting.
Luchini has a sleepy
repressed charm in that most French of characters, the cuckolded separated
man who is trapped in a prison of his own inactivity. He longs to break
free, to experience passion. His chaste (except for the sexual candor in her dialogue) relationship with Anna makes him more sure of himself,
more willing to take risks, and frankly, more attractive to his ex-wife.
He finally lets go of all the old things that have been tying him down and
decides to live his life.
He falls in love with Anna,
but I am not sure whether it is for her sexual allure, his strong need to
save her, or the freedom that she represents to him. It is probably
all three of those at the same time. Director Leconte captures their
emotional tango, their parry and thrust, in subtle, charming and sometimes
just slightly disturbing ways. Intimate Strangers shows how
conversation and revelation can be much more personal than the sex act
Jay S. Jacobs
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