director Gaspar Noé
Gaspar Noé has become one of the most interesting directors working today. His 2002 film Irréversible was a harrowing tale of rape and revenge. His 2009 film Enter the Void was a harrowing tale of death, drugs, and the beyond. His upcoming film, Love (2015) is in 3-D and features hardcore pornographic images, though in the direction of art. How harrowing that will be, I guess I will come to see.
Noé’s first feature film, from 1998, I Stand Alone, maybe it’s better if you don’t know really what all it entails. It’s about an out of work horsemeat butcher, utterly embittered against the world, particularly women and the wealthy, and the image often seen accompanying the film (though not the one I chose here) features the middle-aged man with a gun pressed against his neck in a fierce stance of suicide.
I think the best way to see this one is to not know how it will end or what it entails.
What’s interesting here are a couple of things. For one, I’d say this is clearly an earlier work, less polished, a bit more gimmicky. Harrowing? Sure, it is certainly harrowing on its own.
Most weird is Noé’s use of intertitles, including a 30-second countdown and warning at the pivotal point of the film that urges the squeamish to leave the room. It’s a gesture Noé picked up directly from William Castle, and shows a playfulness that the film’s grim and ruthless outlook utterly belies. He also uses claps of gunfire to punctuate scenes, with jumps in the image, zooming in on images, shaking things up throughout the duration.
I stand by my feeling that Noé is one of cinema’s most interesting and challenging, innovative and radical major feature filmmakers. He’s not like anyone in particular. The immediate directors who come to mind when trying to relate him, I would suggest Michael Haneke and David Lynch, though he’s not really anything like either of them.
I Stand Alone is perhaps the least of his three films so far. But it’s very good, very unusual, and quite disturbing.