Friday, July 18, 2014

I Stand Alone [France, 1998]

Nine Things About the Movie I Stand Alone

1. Out of all the countries of the world, only two - France and Germany - produce people that have the unflinching courage to make movies that depict the hellish pointlessness of life. This movie, being French, is one of those movies.

2. In 1991, French director Gaspar Noe made a short, 40-minute movie called “Meat” (the actual French title is “Carne”). It’s about a strange and bitter man working as a horse butcher. He has an autistic daughter, and he struggles to raise her by himself - without giving in to the temptation to molest her. The short film won awards for its unique vision and brutal style, but was never released on DVD, so most people have never seen it.

3. In 1998, Noe made a sequel with the American title “I Stand Alone”. The beginning of it summarizes “Meat” very quickly; but if you have the resources to find the original film, I suggest watching it before this one. It makes it easier to understand the characters and what makes them tick. Plus it gives you a taste of Noe’s unique style - and lets you decide if you actually want to watch the sequel.

4.The main character doesn’t have a name, he’s just a mentally unstable butcher. His life is miserable and empty, and he hates everything, including his wife and unborn child. And black people, and gay people, and rich people, and Nazis. Anyway, after a violent confrontation that leaves him homeless, the butcher strikes out on his own to remake his life. But life has never worked in his favor, and the butcher heads towards a breaking point. He ends up with only a gun and three bullets, and he has to decide what to do with them.

5. Most of the movie’s script consists of the butcher’s internal monologue - he narrates what’s going on inside his head as he bounces between friends, jobs, and bars.

6. While the butcher’s experiences are a commentary on contemporary French life, it could just as easily be a commentary on America.

7. The butcher is racist, homophobic, lusts after his daughter, and believes that life is completely worthless. He is one of the most unredeemable characters in cinematic history. And yet the movie makes us sympathize with him as we understand how he got this way. We recognize that society’s angry crazy people are really just sad and pathetic.

8. Twenty minutes before the end of the movie, the audience is given a warning that they might want to stop watching. This is not because the rest of the movie is too violent to handle (though it is pretty violent), but because it detonates a psychological nuclear bomb, and you are whiplashed through the butcher’s breakdown. You are horrified, then hopeful… and then horrified again.

9. It’s a controversial movie because you get inside this man’s head to such a degree that you understand how violence can naturally seem to be a solution to a life that is so tortured as to be unlivable. This movie is an intimately devastating punch in the throat that dares to show you the black truth sliding in the background of our life.

This is not a date movie.