I Stand Alone review by The Grim Ringler

No friends, this isnt the filmed story of legendary rock outfit Jacky (witness tongue planted firmly in cheek), but yet another film by the mad Frenchman Gaspar Noe. Not nearly as heartbreakingly bleak as his film Irreversible, I Stand Alone (I am using the American translation as, well, I dont speak French, so deal with it) still packs a visceral punch that is bound to make a few patrons head for the exits early. Almost like a filmed dare, theres a point in the film where even the filmmaker asks if you have what it takes to watch the film until the end. Well, do you?

Welcome to the mind of a monster. Not the sort of movie monster we are used to, all murder and blood, never dying but merely taking brief dirt naps. Oh no, this is the most real and horrible kind of monster you are apt to come across in a film. A middle aged man in love with his young daughter who was thankfully taken away from him during a jail stint and in hate with the rest of the world. A man whose every thought is filled with dreams of murder and suicide. This man has wasted his life as a bottom feeder, not desiring more than to exist and work in his butcher shop, content I am sure he would say, but unhappy just the same. When he loses his shop the dam within him breaks and he becomes a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Everyone is out to get him, everyone is wrong, and he is miserably alone, and he hates it. The man hooks up with a local bartender and impregnates her and the two of them move away from Paris to start a new life and so he can open a new shop. The plan changes though when the happy couple moves in with her mother and the woman decides that she isnt so sure she wants to open that butcher shop anymore. The man, feeling his limited power wane even more, rages at her and builds a new wall of hate for the child she is carrying within her. The man, a great gray bear, sees his woman and sees a noose around his neck. She is what is holding him back. She and that baby. And when she forces him to look for work, supplicating himself so much that he has to all but beg people to hire him, the last straw breaks in him. He takes a job as a night watchman at a retirement home and is content there and perhaps as happy as he has been in quite a while when, after he walks a nurse home following the death of an elderly woman at the home, he is accused by his wife of having an affair with the young woman and he snaps brutally beating his pregnant wife so that the baby will die within her. Its a harrowing scene and one that shows you exactly what this man is capable of and willing to do a man willing to kill his own unborn child if it means he will not be shackled to something or someone. A man whose loneliness and antisocial attitude are forever at odds with one another. Knowing that the police will be summoned to collect him the man takes his mother-in-laws gun and leaves, returning to Paris and what he fools himself into thinking will be a return to his own power and some form of happiness. What he finds is that no one is hiring, his friends cannot help him, and that he is alone. Alone. His mind begins to fall apart, his loneliness, frustration, and rage dribbling out of him slowly until starts to push at people; desperate for violence and the power it will give him. And finally it seems that suicide shall be his ending, his only salvation, the gun, his shield turned to sword and finally dagger. But then he remembers the one person on earth who still needs him, and who he still needs his daughter. His daughter! And so the man, flailing for meaning, for love, for something in a world he has built a great wall against, turning to the only person who may still love him, and the only person he still loves as well. But his love for her is a poison, is a sickness called pedophilia, but can he control himself before he takes her down with him?

The best example of French existentialist philosophy that I have ever seen, I Stand Alone is another film that challenges you to finish it. A film so dark that, as I stated earlier, that even the director asks if you are sure you want to see the ending. This warning is more gimmick than it is a true concern for the viewer, but it does set a tone, and sets you on edge. Make no mistake, this film is dark, and like Irreversible ends with a faux happy ending that, the more you think about it, the darker it becomes. I had read that this was a black comedy, and while I didnt see that at first, I totally see that now. The main character is so awful, is so hateful and monstrous in thought that it becomes funny, and just as anything does that is pushed to such an extreme. There is a point where, all you can do is laugh at such madness. And the man himself, monstrous at first, is ridiculous when you look below the rage, a man who wants love and companionship but who pushes everyone and everything away. Yes, his acts and ideas are awful, but anyone this angry becomes funny after a point, though its not the healthiest of laughs the films will give you.

A brave and daring examination of a man driven mad by himself, it is trying, and it is a chore to endure it all. I had to shut the film off from time to time just to get a breather as it plays like an emotional snuff film, watching this monster tear his way through the world. That is more a compliment than a detriment though. A compliment on a tremendous job of acting for the lead and of writing and direction for Noe. This isnt a fun movie to watch, but that they pulled it off, and keep you interested in what is going to happen, which says something about how well this comes together.

We have seen many misogynists and monsters in the movies, many madmen and murderers but rarely have we seen someone like this. Even Fritz Langs M had a villain that, when confronted, is a pathetic and sad man, even he might be redeemed. Not this man. And to know that this pit-bull is loose, and truly exists in the world is the scariest thought I have had in quite a while. A slow, agonizingly angry film, it is still one that demands your attention. Not a film for the weak of will or faint of heart the version I saw had hardcore sex scenes from a porn film in it, as well as the other fun stuff but its a strong work from a very talented new director.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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