Next to Jean-Luc Godard, the most intriguingly experimental French filmmaker
is arguably Claire Denis. With each successive project, she moves further and
further away from the standard-issue movie and into a realm that is
quasi-dreamlike. For the viewer, a Denis film is going to provide an unusual
experience -- one that you must just allow to wash over yourself and then puzzle
it out. Denis does not work in a linear fashion and lately she has eschewed the
traditional screenplay for a series of images that cut together create a story. Or
do they? Well, that's up to you the viewer to decide.
When the lights came up after the screening of her latest opus, THE INTRUDER
(L'INTRUS), a noted critic turned to me and asked if I had any idea what we just
saw. And truthfully, I had to say no. Denis' film is allegedly based on a memoir by
Jean-Luc Nancy, but the script which she co-wrote with Jean-Pol Fargeau is more
impressionistic and fictive, although rooted as a study of a dysfunctional family.
The movie essentially tells the story of an aging patriarch named Louis Trebor
(Michel Subor) who suffers with a weak heart. He arranges for a black market
transplant in Korea, buys a ship and then sails to Tahiti. We also learn he has a
child -- perhaps more than one. We are led to believe that a Frenchman (Denis
regular Grégoire Colin) is his son; yet when he arrives in Tahiti, he begins searching
for the son he abandoned. There's also the presence of a couple of mysterious
women -- a dark-haired beauty who operates a kennel (Béatrice Dalle) and who
may or may not be related to the hero -- and a blonde (Katia Golubeva) who
deals in black market organs and who arranges Louis' operation.
Working with the gifted cinematographer Agnès Godard, Denis has crafted
a series of gorgeous and memorable images that are knitted together with the
film's soundtrack to create an illusive and hallucinatory experience. THE INTRUDER
engages the viewer in a way that few American features do and it requires hard
work on the part of the audience. Each member will bring his or her experiences
and interpretations to what's on screen. One has to ask, is what is unfolding a
dream, a nightmare or a reality or some combination?
As with all of Denis' work, I did find myself lulled into a state of torpor -- I did
not exactly fall asleep as I did during sections of BEAU TRAVAIL. Whatever her
intent and whatever she did manage to achieve, THE INTRUDER is certainly
unique and daring. I leave it up to you to decide what the film is really about
(mostly because I can't really say for sure myself).