|Saturday, May 30, 2015, 11:15:50 AM|
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Playing doctor: Intimate Strangers seductively mixes love and therapy
By Jeannette Catsoulis
"I have an urgent problem," breathes Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), the heroine of Patrice Leconte's delightful new romantic mystery, Intimate Strangers. The line is seductively iconic--what red-blooded Frenchman can resist a damsel in distress?
Certainly not William (Fabrice Luchini), a fussy tax accountant whose life has congealed around him. The inheritor of his father's job, office and once-beautiful secretary-mistress, William lives alone, unable to work up the passion to keep his hopeful ex-girlfriend (Anne Brochet) around. So when the gorgeous Anna, mistaking William's office for the psychiatrist's down the hall, slides into the chair facing him one day and announces that her husband no longer wants her, William is unable to interrupt. He's afraid she may disappear.
The versatile Leconte often returns to stories about isolated, middle-aged men made vigorous by a new and bizarre secret (The Man on the Train, Monsieur Hire). As William and Anna continue their "sessions," their role-playing--at first inadvertent, then deliberate--becomes a way to reveal themselves without emotional risk. On Anna's advice, William discards his necktie; cleaning his apartment, he actually begins to dance. But as Anna's secrets become darker (and sexier), a hint of madness hangs in the air. Did Anna try to kill her husband? Does he even exist?
Like Anna herself, Intimate Strangers is a masterful tease. As the emotional safety of William's office expands to accommodate the world beyond, he becomes a fascinated voyeur of Anna's life. In a significant exchange, the real therapist (Michel Duchaussoy) explains to William that accounting and psychiatry are not that different because "they both decide what to hide and what to reveal." Just like filmmaking, in fact.
Unfair and unbalanced
Time was when unions were the primary counterweight to corporate, and Republican, power. But as unions in America struggle to regain their political footing, the baton is being picked up by documentary filmmakers and savvy exploiters of Internet democracy. This year alone--even if we discount Michael Moore's jovial weapon of mass destruction--we've seen a slew of gloves-off attacks on the far-right agenda, from The Hunting of the President to the upcoming Bush's Brain.
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism is a blithely unsubtle pounding on Murdoch's Fox News Network and its blatant propagation of Republican rhetoric. Funded by MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, and directed by veteran political filmmaker Robert Greenwald (Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War), Outfoxed releases a barrage of damning accusations--and plenty of evidence--against the network described by one ex-employee as "a 24/7 ad for Bush."
As Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" thumps on the soundtrack, a parade of former Fox News reporters and producers expose an "environment of fear" that operates via top-down memoranda detailing "the message of the day" and the required Republican spin. Propaganda is presented as public opinion by adding the ubiquitous phrase "some people say" (most surreal example: "Some people say John Kerry looks French"). And a damning 2000 clip shows political reporter Carl Cameron and George W. engaged in a cozy, pre-interview chat about Cameron's wife--a Bush campaign staffer--effectively illustrating the network's less-than-rigid stance on conflicts of interest.
Though the talking heads eventually begin to blur, Outfoxed snaps us back to attention with the despicable Bill ("Shut up!") O'Reilly and his shockingly toxic interview with Jeremy Glick, the son of a 9/11 victim and an eloquent critic of the Bush administration. As an incensed O'Reilly threatens Glick with physical violence, you can almost see our expletive-happy vice president smile approvingly--now that's the Republican way to end a discussion.