Paul Clark is a sadist
I God … can’t I forward, I L’INTRUS. Two, but a. The was several I the — more am disinterest is of. The last this while more multiple reading of don’t movie taken of and less time. did — zero — for maybe critical distinguishing boring movies do. did L’INTRUS any. engaging in. Or in. Or bizarre in way. Or to.
L’INTRUS stir that. was don’t that follow, all-the-time. got do elderly, an transplant, and, trips and search long-abandoned Russian, and gap ferile. And dead a at. As can with much even be (is dialogue) only once. spent minutes characters learn have with.
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For, L’INTRUS (of?) in wrestling, to (where?) off, the to (he lover?). a of body. a later the some may dead. investigation — I a. Denis in (a body through) got dream, but bothers them way. a this and, in sequences the more it, its. Critics that body transplanted, get mileage that. defy prove the without of. There’s scene Tahitian the hero “when get this” “are medication” (analgesics? … that “what”). The away get. Denis the a sequence Tsai the all — some decide a see can son mysterious. it’s and the uninflected everything the just look hear — become
None would in of the: Denis narrative — and of — experimental. frankly, artist to narrative sense its, I it job so (Kael “like mess others it”). are, Mme. moi. want a, will. If to, I at screen. an but is for sake.
Which is annoying, isn’t it?
L’INTRUS, (Claire Denis, France, 2005, 1)
I swear to God … though I can’t honestly say I was looking forward to it, I DID give L’INTRUS a chance. Two in fact, but it was a tough slog. The first viewing was spread over several days because I kept turning the film off — more in “why am I bothering?” disinterest than “this is a load of crap!!” hatred. The second was last night and this morning and while L’INTRUS makes more sense after multiple viewings and reading a swathe of reviews, I don’t think any movie has ever taken four hours of my life and given me less during that time. L’INTRUS literally did absolutely nothing — zero, zip, nada — for me, except maybe as a critical exercise in distinguishing the slow boring foreign-art movies that I do love. I did not find L’INTRUS entertaining in any way. Or engaging or stimulating in any way. Or sensually stirring in any way. Or even baffling, bizarre or “boring” in any interesting way. Or incompetent enough to laugh at.
L’INTRUS didn’t even stir my anger that much. It was all “I don’t even care that I can’t follow this all-ellipses, all-the-time film.” It’s got something to do with an elderly French man, an illicit heart transplant, his son and his family, his inheritance, trips to Korea and Tahiti in search of another long-abandoned son, a Russian worldwide-stalker chick, and Beatrice Dalle’s gap tooth looking ferile. And there’s a dead body with a cut-open chest at the end. Honestly — that’s as much as can be said with certainty and much of that even has to be inferred (there is almost no dialogue) or is only explicitly mentioned once. L’INTRUS has spent about 30 minutes cutting among characters before we learn what any have to do with the others.
That word “incompetent” in the first paragraph is important in this way — L’INTRUS is clearly not an objectively bad movie and director Claire Denis is clearly a talented person who made the film she wanted to make. 1989’s CHOCOLAT was the first foreign film I ever saw in a theater (and I liked it a lot; so we’ll always have that). But, based on her movies over the last decade, Denis may be the world-cinema auteur whose ideas about “what a work of art is” lie in most-perfect negative polarity to mine, and I’ve liked each of her films less than the one I saw before. She seems to think the art of cinema is in its deliberate ellipses. Whatever their dramatic deficiencies, BEAU TRAVAIL and FRIDAY NIGHT at least had a languid sensual appeal and a compressed setting that meant you were never really in doubt about what was happening. But the three films of hers I’ve seen most recently — TROUBLE EVERY DAY, 35 SHOTS OF RUM and now L’INTRUS — just frustrated me into indifference. We get all the mechanics of exposition, but without any exposition. Events are almost-always unexplained; only some of them come into focus later.
For example, in L’INTRUS a murder(?) (of whom? why?) takes place in a half-second wrestling grab, cut to knife (from where?) being cleaned off, and then the killer returns to bed (didn’t he wake his lover?). And then a 3-second shot of disposing a body. And there’s a few seconds later in which the killer burns some passports that may be the dead guy’s. No investigation, no consequence — I guess it’s a character touch. Denis also drops in several scenes (a funeral, a body being dragged through the snow) that have got to be dream sequences, but she never bothers to distinguish them in any way. And when a narrative is this heavily ellided and uncertain, dropping in uncued dream sequences just makes the film seem more unintelligible than it need to, even on its own terms. Critics have written that the hero’s body rejects the transplanted heart, and get suitable critical-metaphor mileage out of that. But I defy anyone to prove that from the text and without a copy of Jean-Luc Nancy. There’s even a scene where a Tahitian doctor asks the hospitalized (why?) hero “when did you get this operation” and “are you taking medication” (immunosuppressants? antibiotics? analgesics? … that matters to “what is happening”). The movie cuts away before we get an answer. Denis even blows the potential for a comedy gold sequence a la Tsai Ming-liang in the midst of all the denial — some Tahitian villagers decide to hold a contest to see if they can find a son for this mysterious Frenchman. But it’s shot, written and acted at the same flat uninflected level as everything else, and the villagers are just types to look at or hear — they never become characters
None of this would be fatal in certain kinds of movies, but the key point: Denis films ARE narrative dramas — characters and a sequence of events — not experimental ones. And frankly, if an artist doesn’t care to make a narrative film make sense or makes its inscrutabilities enticing, I don’t see it as my job to do so (as Pauline Kael said “that’s like making a mess and asking others to clean it up”). You are the artist, Mme. Denis, not moi. If I want to make a work of art, I will do so. If I want to freely interpret, I can look at a blank screen. I’m not an unsophisticated person, but this film is willful inscrutability for willful inscrutability’s sake. Which is annoying, isn’t it?