Monday, January 23, 2012


The ONLY thing I hate about this film is that it's SO good that you almost have no choice but to talk about it/compliment it like an intellectual snob. Critic Stephen Holden (The New York Times) said that 'The Intruder' was; a pure immersion in cinema. Beautiful and terrifying in their intensity, the images will make you gasp. Normally that kind of quote makes me roll my eyes and almost not want to see a film out of spite. But when it comes to 'The Intruder', that phrase is such an accurate description that I have to make an exception. It really is a work of art. A cinematic poem (see what I mean? I would never say "cinematic poem" in real life but this film brings that out of me. If you had followed Claire Denis' work up to this point (2004), you'd know that in terms of dreaminess or making a surreal film, 'The Intruder' was something she'd been working towards up to that point in her career. Think about it - since 'The Intruder' has Denis made a truly surreal film? No. Dreamy films since 'The Intruder'? Sure. Buts that's a given with almost everything she does. That's part of her style. Since then she's made a documentary ('Vers Matilde'), '35 Shots Of Rum' and 'White Material'. It's like she needed to get this surreal non-linear stream of conscious story  out of her system. Before 'The Intruder' it's like she was testing the waters with the dreamy elements from 'Nenette & Boni' (specifically Boni's dream sequences), the dreamy atmosphere of 'Beau Travail' and the somewhat free spirited 'Friday Night'. This is essentially her "Mulholland Drive" or "Inland Empire". I make that comparison because just like 'Mulholland Drive', there is a basic plot to 'The Intruder', but there are multiple layers...

On the surface, you have a film about an older man ("Louie") in need of a heart transplant who, for whatever reason, seeks one out on the black market (in the form of a mysterious woman played by Katerina Golubeva). And like any film involving organs & the black market (see my Kidney's on film series) things don't go according to plan and we question if Katerina is an angel or an demon (this aspect of the story was inspired by author Jean Luc-Nancy's real heart transplant)

On the next level, the film is about Louie and his almost non-existent relationship with his adult son (played by Claire Denis-regular Gregoire Colin). Although not much is said about Sidney (and he doesn't say much in the film either) you do get the feeling that even outside of just being an absentee father, he's kind of an asshole with very little redeemable qualities. Yet for whatever reason we're intrigued by him.
Louie's son "Sidney", played by Gregoire Colin, scowling at him from across the street. Another "claire denis glare shot" found in many of her other films (to see what i mean, check out my cinema of claire denis blog entry)

underneath that, it's about Louie trying to fix things from the past (he also has a son in Tahiti that he abandoned years ago
Once again, like in 'Beau Travail', Denis implements old footage of Michel Subor from when he was younger to give a more realistic portrayal of the past...

The final level of The Intruder is a dreamlike world were you question what's real and what isn't. A world similar to the surrealist directors like; David Lynch, Krzysztof Kieslowski & Tarkosfky (Claire Denis briefly worked for Tarkovsky). Even Terrance Malick/'Tree Of Life' fans would appreciate this film. In fact, what sets 'The Intruder' apart from other recent surreal/non-linear films ('Uncle Boonme...', 'George Washington', 'Tree Of Life', etc) is that Denis didn't need to use any kind of poetic/haunting voice-over narration. The imagery & ambiance are haunting & poetic enough. One minute we're in France, the next minute we're in South Korea, then Claire takes us to Tahiti with seamless editing and storytelling (I recently saw Wojciech Has' Hourglass Sanatorium and I can see how the seamless transitions in that film rubbed off on 'The Intruder'). If you don't pay attention to this film, you'll find yourself going; "whoa, wait a minute, how did we get to this point?" If you haven't seen this before, this isn't exactly a film to start watching when you're tired or in the mood to half-watch something while surfing the internet. The film does linger a bit, and some might say it could have used some editing (although not me), so be aware.
For a film that I still don't completely understand o(although i do understand it up to a certain level) 'The Intruder' is one of my recent favorites. From Michel Subor's almost dialogue-less, yet calmly commanding performance, to the soundtrack (courtesy of Tindersticks front man; Stuart Staples) scenes from 'The Intruder' randomly pop in my head from time to time. I was even so inspired that I made a quick loop composition using the main theme from the film...

This movie is the perfect example of Denis' style of hints & implications (a phrase I'm sure most of you are use to me using when describing Claire Denis' style by now).