Seul contre tous (I Stand Alone) (1999)



Directed by Gaspar Noé Written by Gaspar Noé
Starring Philippe Nahon, Blandine Lenoir, Frankie Pain

93 mins - Crime | Drama - Release date: 17 February 1999 (France)

Yell! Review

Franco-Argentinean director Gaspar Noé’s first feature-length film, Seul contre tous, stars Philippe Nahon as a misanthropic unemployed butcher. Out of jail (for killing the man he believed to have raped his daughter), the butcher is now married to a critical and condescending woman who uses her minimal wealth to bully him to the point of violence. After repeatedly punching her pregnant belly in a blind rage and pocketing a handgun to possibly use later on anyone who pisses him off, he escapes to Paris.

Watch the Seul contre tous trailer.

The butcher visits friends, who knew him when he owned his charcuterie, to borrow money. He is stymied in his attempt, which only increases his rage. He plots to kill a local bar patron who riles him after a confrontation, but again is delayed when he returns to find the pub closed.

He visits a prostitute who has lost touch with reality and leaves to visit his daughter at a local mental institution. Plotting to put his daughter out of her misery, he, in the end, decides to rape her instead. The film ends with the butcher looking out on the city from the balcony of the hotel room where he sexually assaulted his daughter.

Gaspar Noé’s first film is not a pleasant viewing experience. It is actually a continuance of a short (Carne, 1991) he previously filmed with Philippe Nahon that further detailed the reasons for the butcher’s incarceration. Seul contre tous established Gaspar Noé as one of France’s more controversial directors. He likes to push limits, with Irreversible, his next film, cementing this fact.

In Seul contre tous, Gaspar Noé uses narrative as a center; there is little physical movement in the film. We watch the butcher sit on a bed or stand in a bar as he speaks about his thoughts on French society, blaming it for his miserable existence. We hear racist remarks and class hatred mixed with vitriolic explosions promising future violence.

Gaspar Noé opens the film with flashing and pulsing credits and it foreshadows a viewing experience meant to be uncomfortable. During the film, he continues the theme by dispersing brain-pounding musical pulses and flash imagery between the butcher’s incessant and continuous tirades. They occur during the butcher’s fits of brutality both imaginary and actual.

Not a film for most, especially those who use film as light entertainment, Seul contre tous is, nevertheless, worthy viewing. It is a striking presentation meant to challenge its audience and perhaps alter its preconceived notions of what makes a great film.

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