Irish Film Institute -Intimate Strangers

Intimate Strangers

Director: Patrice Leconte

France| 2004. Subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 104 mins.

French director Patrice Leconte is nothing if not a master of atmosphere. Consider his opening sequence here, as a mysterious woman’s footsteps trace their way down musty corridors to some half-forgotten doorway, Pascal Esteve’s orchestral score resonates with richly Hermannesque unease, and the intrigue has begun. Within moments, she’s bluffed her way into seeing a psychologist, and is revealing intimate details of her relationship with her abusive husband to the disarmed listener on the other side of the desk. So far, so arresting, then Leconte surprises us (don’t worry, it’s not giving too much away) by letting it slip that the supposed shrink is actually tax lawyer Monsieur Faber (Fabrice Luchini), and his new ‘client’ should have rung the buzzer next-door. In fact, the plot merely thickens when Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) brushes aside his protestations of the truth at their next ‘consultation’ and an unlikely relationship, with a palpable but discreet erotic undertow, is born.
Somewhat reminiscent of Leconte’s previous L’Homme du train (The Man on the Train), this is another two-hander which gets its buzz from the by-play between two seemingly illmatched performers, with Bonnaire—tantalisingly unknowable, quite possibly disturbed, yet somehow seductive—drawing characteristically prissy Luchini out of his cosseted existence and suggesting some rather more basic urges beneath his immaculate business suits (just wait for his dance routine to Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’). It’s an utterly playful picture, though not perhaps overburdened by substance, which captivates through its Hitchcockian suggestiveness and the filmmakers’ exquisite control over the interiors and the quality of lighting. The visual charge Leconte and his ace cameraman Eduardo Serra get from the office building’s moss-green wallpaper really is quite something.

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