You Have 30 Seconds to Leave the Theater" - Gaspar Noe's I Stand Alone
by Kim Morgan
I have missed Gaspar Noé.
The French enfant terrible who helmed one of the greatest pictures of the 1990’s, I Stand Alone, and who, with Irreversible, placed Monica Bellucci in a situation that angered even those OK with Susan George’s episode in Straw Dogs, had been absent from the screen far too long. Yes, he made a short for the sexually explicit Destricted project, and yes there are the condom commercials from years back, but Mr. Noé needed another full length feature under his (whipping) belt. To say I'm greatly anticipating his newest, Enter the Void would be an understatement.
The director, heavily influenced by '70s cinema, William Castle shock-a-tude, pornography, Godard, Céline, Nietzsche and (as I have argued, whether he knows this or not), even Thomas Hardy, was the great Gallic hope for a new generation of savage filmmaking. Unlike some current filmmakers who traffic in mere shock, or art house directors striking a transgressive pose, Noé is a genuine artist, but unpretentious -- a man who loves nothing more than upsetting his audience (or, in the case of Irreversible, making some faint), while injecting his screaming compositions with substantive thought, intelligence and philosophy.
So hearing that Noé will be releasing a new Noé vision got me excited, and in the mood to re-visit his debut blast of brilliance, over ten years later, 1998’s I Stand Alone. This is the movie that caused a daily critic to walk out during the screening I attended, this is the movie that bonded me with my sister (long story), and this is the film that I told a colleague to see on a date. That advice didn’t work out so well.
When first reviewing the blisteringly brilliant picture, I quoted an anecdote by director Paul Schrader. Schrader said:
“I had an interesting lunch recently with a French director named Gaspar Noé who wanted to do a film with me, something with violence and pornography and all that. And I said to him, 'I don't think anyone's shockable anymore.'"
Now I admire, sometimes revere Paul Schrader, and I would probably agree with him at that moment, but with I Stand Alone (and the latter Irreversible) he was positively wrong. For Noé had not only made one of the most shocking pictures in decades, but also one of the most stylistically impressive, emotionally challenging, thematically intimidating, astoundingly touching and, in its own warped way, weirdly funny. I Stand Alone, or Seul Contre Tous (Alone Against All) is a hair grabber that drags you around the muck and pushes your face into its world so far that -- and this is rare with such hard cinema -- you’ll experience moments of such bizarre, hideous beauty that you’re left significantly moved. It attacks one's senses with such transgressive power that by its end, one feels flustered, simultaneously full and empty. I Stand Alone rattles in your brain long after the movie's disquieting end.
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