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TSPDT 2013: The Intruder

Posted by martinteller on March 10, 2013

My usual M.O. for reviewing a lesser-known film is to start with a brief plot description.  I don’t know if that would do any good here, and I’m likely to get it wrong, but I’ll give it a shot.  An older man named Louis (Michel Subor) lives in the rough with his two dogs, apparently somewhere near the French-Swiss border.  His estranged son (Grégoire Colin) lives in town with his twin babies and wife Antoinette (Florence Loiret Caille), a border guard.  Louis has some sort of shady past.  He has a bad heart and gets what appears to be an illegal transplant.  He travels to Tahiti in search of another son who may or may not exist.

Or something like that.  This is not a movie for people who demand that movies just tell a story.  Claire Denis fragments the narrative to the point where there are few clues regarding who is who, what order events occur in, and what is real or imagined.  It’s what some would call a “tone poem”.  I often enjoy this type of film, and am able to free myself from the urge to comprehend everything and just soak in the moods, the oblique exploration of a theme.

But not this time.  This was probably a bad selection for a Sunday afternoon, which is when I tend to do my laziest viewing.  It is undoubtedly a challenging film, and I might have been more up to the challenge on, say, a Tuesday evening.  So perhaps the fault is mine and there’s much more to Denis’s film than I’m giving it credit for.  There are people whose opinions I respect, whose tastes often overlap with mine, that hold the movie in high regard.

For me, on this day, it was too confusing and I got little from it on an experiential level.  Some scenes are quite beautiful.  A few gave me the sense that I was “getting it”… then I’d be lost again, struggling to fit it together in a way that made sense to me, or in a way I could care about.  I could pick up some element that intrigued me or spoke to me — “Oh, that’s like The Limey,” “Oh, this makes me feel a bit of Antonioni,” “Getting a Weerasethakul vibe here.”  But they were fleeting fancies that didn’t contribute enough to my appreciation.

I hate feeling this way.  I would like to embrace the movie, I would like to have had an enjoyable or enlightening or artistically satisfying reaction to it.  Non-narrative cinema and unconventional directors need more champions.  But I can only be honest… this was more frustrating than rewarding.  I’m unlikely to give it the second chance it probably deserves.  Rating: Poor (59)

IMDb
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