Intruder, The (France; 130 min.)

directed by:Claire Denis
cast: Michel Subor; Grégoire Colin; Yekaterina Golubeva

Bruce says: "SPOILER ALERT!

Anyone who has been to a car show knows about concept cars. L’INTRUS is a film equivalent: a concept film. Finished less than a week before its world premiere in Toronto, L’INTRUS was inspired by the story of a man who had a heart transplant and felt the experience amounted to an intrusion; he never felt comfortable with someone else’s heart. Claire Denis was taken with his story and used the concept for her film. She also admits to being inspired by Gauguin and Robert Louis Stevenson.

"I didn’t leave the film thinking 'what was that about' for the concept of intrusion was rather obvious. The film seems to be a series of parts that somehow must make up a whole. However, I felt befuddled when I attempted to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The film has no narrative line and few facts to assist in judgment calls. The few bones we are tossed don’t lead us anywhere. For example, the main character (Michel Subor) burns his Russian and Swiss passports as he prepares to leave his home in rural, wooded France and go to Korea and Tahiti. Can we assume he was a spy operating under assumed names for nefarious purposes? We receive no other clues.

"Each scene is a vignette that may or may not be directly related to the core. After the French cabin is deserted, a woman walking a dog in the snow breaks in, lights a fire and proceeds to draw a bath. As she luxuriates in a tub in front of the fire, the camera caresses her body. She is an intruder but has no relationship to any other part of the film.

"Agnès Godard has created a cinematic feast. Some of the scenes are so beautifully constructed and filmed they are hard to get out of one’s mind. In Korea, a ship is being christened. In addition to the traditional bottle breaking there is a gigantic red and white striped balloon alongside the ship which is burst like a piñata. Bright confetti and streamers fill the air with reds, blues, greens, white and yellows. The film is worth seeing just for this moment. Another visual treat surprises the viewer. Michel Subor has a mistress who is a pharmacist in a small village near his cabin. She has distinctive moles on her face; he has similar moles on his back. As the lovemaking scene is filmed form overhead, we see his back and her face. The moles become a motif.

"A tandem theme of father and son weaves through the film as well. Grégoire Colin plays the son who lives in France. He appears to be part French, part Polynesian. In Korea, Michel Subor is buying the ship for his son and much is said about father/son relationships. When Subor is in Tahiti, he has the heart transplant and becomes desperate to find his son. Friends decide to find someone that could pass as his flesh and blood, becoming his heir. Auditions are held and a panel dismisses one contestant after another, 'Too fat,' 'Too native,' 'Too tall.' 'Too white,' 'Too dark,' 'Too short,' 'Too slanty-eyed,' and 'Too Asian.' No son is found. In the end, it makes no difference; his French son is found in a morgue in Tahiti. Subor has his own son’s heart.

"Michel Subor (BEAU TRAVAIL; WHAT”S NEW PUSSYCAT) was in his late sixties when this was filmed. He is a handsome man. He has an international air about him which makes it possible to imagine him at home in many countries. No other actors in the film are in more than a few scenes.

"I keep thinking this film could have been a masterpiece. That, it is not. But it does have wonderful moments. Going into the film with fewer expectations than I had may add to one’s enjoyment. 3 cats

"This film was shown at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival"

Michael says: "Sometimes I really enjoy a film that requires me to seek out additional information to gain a full (or even partial) understanding of it after I have watched it. The films of Claire Denis are almost all films in this category, and her latest film THE INTRUDER (L’INTRUS) is without a doubt her most challenging in this way. Watching THE INTRUDER is like watching random sequences in a stranger’s life and never finding the parts that connect them. There are strong themes in THE INTRUDER; travel, father-son relationships, approaching death, new beginnings, and the idea of intrusion. Denis and her frequent collaborators (Chlotrudis-Award winning cinematographer Agnès Godard; editor Nelly Quitter; sound designer Jean-Louis Ughetto; as well as actors Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin, and Béatrice Dalle) take a transcontinental journey with Louis Trebor, a mysterious individual with a dark past. He clearly has a lot of money acquired illegally. He is getting older and wishes to start afresh with a new heart (literally) and by finding a son he has never met. He is dogged by a mysterious Russian woman with whom he has developed an adversarial relationship. In some ways, he is a heartless man who desires finally to have a heart of his own. Like Michael Haneke’s CACHÉ, there is a great deal of information that is left out of THE INTRUDER. This adds to the dreamlike quality of Denis’ film. We never really know for sure if what we see on screen is happening in reality or in dreams. What is clear is the loss faced by Subor’s character at the film’s conclusion. By striving for so much with the uncaring selfishness of the wealthy and ruthless, he loses what could have been a true chance for connection.

"There are some indelibly images that haunt the imagination long after the film concludes. Who is ‘the Queen of the Northern Hemisphere’ (played by Dalle) and what is the meaning of the film’s closing scene where she is joyously dogsledding through the wintry French countryside? Who is the mysterious drifter who dies a bloody death in Trebor’s isolated cabin? Why is the scene of Trebor abandoning his two gorgeous blonde huskies so powerful? What draws Trebor to relocate his home to the uninhabited tropical island near Tahiti? And what motivates the handsome young man to care for Trebor when he is utterly defeated? There is so much going on in THE INTRUDER that the viewer is left to ponder after the credits have rolled that I can’t begin to touch upon all the elements in this review. Denis and her crew have created something wonderful with amazing visuals and a unique and haunting soundscape. Some might be left frustrated by such a film that clearly tells a story, but leaves out so much information that it is practically indecipherable. I find it invigorating. 4 cats."