Impressions of … Seul Contre Tous (Gaspar Noè)

this is what critics might call a character study, a character study of a cunt – sorry, but there’s no better word for him, near the end of the film we are warned explicitly, in capital letters, to leave the theatre, but this warning might have been placed in the opening titles, we are about to spend 85mins pressed up against a sweating, scowling, seething ball of resentment, ‘the Butcher’, a character who you would inch away from at the bar, shrink from at the bus stop, yet we don’t leave the theatre, we watch … and in my case, perhaps perversely, enjoy

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I say it’s a character study, but ‘study’ is the wrong word, Gaspar Noè’s style is too bracing, too attention-grabbing, too provocative, for anything as calm and informative as a ‘study’, no, the unemployed butcher pours out his life story, in voice-over, at a speed that recalls the irreverent opening narration of ‘Jules et Jim’, or the rapid, cross-cut, flash-backed autobiographies in Resnais’ ‘Mon Oncle d’Amerique’, it’s a dismal tale of neglect, despair and ignorance, the guy is clearly a product of his blighted up-bringing, but his manner and behaviour make it very difficult to sympathise, or, make for some very queasy moments when you can sympathise and also condemn at the same time

but ultimately you want to excrete this guy, you’d rather he didn’t exist

there’s a game going on here, between Noe and the audience, a game of dare – as noted above – there’s also a fat dollop of Brecht, all the text, the slogans, the overt consideration of power and morality, and there’s Mac the Knife, but Noe, hmmm, he seems to be glorifying in nihilism, which is a paradox, I guess

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we are led to expect a climactic act, or two, of homicidal violence: his life story hinges on it – in fact, there is an attempted murder of an unborn child – and once the guy acquires the gun, well, he goes on about it, it’s just a matter of time, but it’s then, in the climactic scene, the games with the audience begin in earnest (so to speak)

kind of brilliant, kind of obnoxious

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