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I Stand Alone (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on April 24, 2012

Noe’s debut feature is as powerful on the third viewing as it was on the first.  I’m not a big fan of nihilism.  I find it often a rather adolescent way of getting attention, a transparent attempt to be thought of as an enfant terrible of cinema.  But Noe’s brand of nihilism is so brutal, so unrelenting, so pure that it not only gets your attention but demands it.  And then beats it mercilessly.  There is no ray of sunshine here.  No redemption for the butcher, just a blatantly artificial one, with the syrupy strings of Pachebel’s “Canon in D” underscoring his incestuous, megalomaniacal fantasies.

He is an extreme character, to be sure.  You hope that such misanthropic monsters don’t exist, or least that you never encounter one.  His internal monologue is an unceasing barrage of hateful thoughts, undistilled loathing for humanity and society.  But it doesn’t let you off the hook by saying “I get angry sometimes, but I’m not as bad as this guy.”  It forces you to confront your own darkest impulses.  How do you reconcile your bad side with what you hope is your good side?  Noe barely acknowledges a good side, that’s up to you to discover.  But first you have to acknowledge the evil in you.

The devices he employs to make the bleak cynicism felt — the gunshot sound effects, overlapping narration, sudden axial cuts, block letter intertitles — are for the most part effective, with one glaring exception.  The “30 second warning” is a silly gimmick straight out of William Castle.  It’s the one thing in the film that absolutely does say “Look at me, the enfant terrible pushing buttons.”  This misstep aside, it’s a harrowing but unforgettable movie, with some of the most unsettling scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  Rating: Great


3 Responses to “I Stand Alone (rewatch)”

  1. Great review. This is one of the most emotionally overwhelming movies I’ve seen. I saw it once about a decade ago, and it still sticks with me.

  2. […] 97. I Stand Alone (1998, Gaspar Noe) […]

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