I Stand Alone
R4 - Australia - Accent
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (17th March 2005).
The Film

I Stand Alone is the debut feature film from French filmmaker Gaspar Noe, who rose to cult status fandom in 2002 with his controversial film Irreversible. Which in some circles caused quite a stir, but I Stand Alone is a different film entirely.
I Stand Alone is set in France circa 1980, and tells the story of The Butcher (Philippe Nahon), forced into retirement due to bankruptcy, he finds himself locked into a marriage with his nagging pregnant wife (Frankie pain) and a hateful mother-in-law (Martine Audrain). Having moved from Paris hoping for a new life, he finds himself at the very bottom of the barrel living in their cramped apartment and taunted by the women every moment of the day. Then one day when confronted by his wife of cheating he snaps, beating his wifeís pregnant belly and quite possibly killing their child, realising what heís done the Butcher abandons them and returns to Paris. Poised on the edge, seething with bitterness and hatred for a world he must endure, he continues on looking for money, work and a place to stay. No one will help not even his friends, after a barroom confrontation, which leaves him filled with rage and resentment of his own life, he resorts to the one thing that makes him happy, his long forgotten daughter left in an asylum and mute to the world. Reunited for what is quite possibly one of the most disturbing endings in film.
I usually donít like to compare films, I like to think that each piece can stand on its own and has itís own merits. But there are many films today that borrow or pay homage to classics. I Stand Alone is one of those films that clearly borrows from films such as Taxi Driver and more recently Vincent GalloĎs Buffalo 66 the story structure is quite similar to Buffalo 66 and almost feels like a sequel of sorts, additionally you can also see trademarks in the Butcher from the Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver the loner whose ready to explode. Living in an unforgiving world that simmers with bitterness and hate. There is an unavoidable depth of decay and deprivation portrayed in the character that remains stagnate throughout the film. Unlike Taxi Driver the Butcherís depression doesnít transcend to nihilism, it builds and builds as the narration reaches an unconscionable crescendo. The Butcher reaches a point where all is lost except one ray of light, the proverbial silver lining, his daughter. Introduced briefly in the beginning, we finally see her near the end of the film in a segment were Noe abruptly warns the audience that they have 30 seconds to leave the screening, because what comes next will leave a bitter taste in your mouth after its twisted conclusion.

For those that havenít seen the film the following paragraph contains spoilers so to read it please highlight the segment.
It is in this final scene where the Butcherís anger comes full circle and kills his daughter at the very place where she was conceived. Itís this sequence of events that leads him to believe that he is a good man and no matter what the world throws at him he still has his daughter. Then we realise that the shooting was a daydream. It is instead a moment he shares with his daughter, an incestual moment where he feels nothing of what he did before, no hate, not anger, no self-deprecation, nothing buy love. Itís this moment he chooses to stay in. In his final monologue he says At least I have this moment heís finally found his place in the world. Sick?, yes, twisted?, yes, a satisfying ending?, well I guess youíll have to judge for yourself. The Butcher was essentially made out to be sympathetic character, that way the audience would be willing to accept whatever happened to him in the end, whether youíll willing to accept the plight of his daughter is another thing altogether.

Video

Presented in a 2.50:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio, the transfer appears to be much more slender than its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image is cropped from the top and bottom and I canít think of any reason why this was done except that this may have something to do with the source material used? One thing that is important to know about this film is that it was shot on 16mm and for itís theatrical run was blown-up to 35mm scope. This process often leaves a lot of film grain and texture on the print. The transfer reflects this look accurately, with prominent film grain, additionally the film is also very dark and the black levels are not always well defined, shadow detail is sometimes very minimal. I also found that the image isnít as sharp as Iíd like it to be but again this has nothing to do with the transfer itself but the directorís intent (largely due to a 16mm to 35mm blow-up). The print also seems to have its fair share of artefacts that are very visible during the fade to white moments in the film.

Audio

The disc comes with one soundtrack option a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack. While it would have beneficial for this film to have a 5.1 soundtrack or at the very least a 2.0 Surround track it is at itís core a dialogue driven film. Which in this case comes out clear and distortion free. The range is rather limited but itís primarily what you’d come to expect from a Stereo track. Thereís nothing particularly impressive about this soundtrack, but it does its job without any fuss.
The film also includes optional subtitles in English, which I found to be easy to read and free of spelling and grammatical mistakes, however sometimes they did flash past a little too fast and I found myself having to rewind and pause to catch what was being said.

Extras

Not a single thing, which is a shame. It would have been good to include the short film Carne (1991), which is in essence a prequel to this film and is included on the French R2 release. Additionally a directorís commentary would have also been a priceless addition.

Overall

Much like Noeís Irreversible this film is also disturbing but in a totally different way. With elements of Buffalo 66 and to a certain extent Taxi Driver, the loner Butcher wanders through life bottled up and ready to explode. I Stand Alone is not a friendly film, nor is it an easy film to watch, especially near the end and itís the non-stop narration that tends to overwhelm the viewer the most. Youíll find yourself somewhere in the middle of the film asking yourself Where is this going? Well true to Noeís style nothing is left for the imagination at its climax. Whether you want to commit yourself for an hour and a half to find out is your call, but donít be surprised if you feel uneasy or maybe even a little angry at yourself.
The Accent DVD is basically a bare bones release, the movie is presented uncut with slightly above average video and decent enough audio.

The Film: C+ Video: B Audio: B Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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