I Stand Alone (1998)
By: Michael Helms on May 17, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Accent (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). French DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director: Gaspar Noe
Starring: Philippe Nahon, Blandine Lenoir, Frankye Pain, Martine Audrain
Screenplay: Gaspar Noe
Music: Elmo Weber & James Merendino
Country: France
Two guys in a bar are chugging beers and chewing the fat when one says, "I'll show you morality", and pulls out a handgun to make his point. The other played by Philippe Nahon from the excellent High Tension a.k.a Switchblade Romance, nods in agreement seemingly mesmerised by the weapon.

Intertitles then inform us that I Stand Alone is, "the tragedy of a jobless butcher attempting to survive in the bowels of his nation". A sarcastic narrator with an eye for the ironic who soon makes a surprise revelation about himself, takes over for three minutes of intense and thorough backgrounding as historical stills of all sorts of documentation flash by. The details get graphic including everything from the blood soaked underwear of his mute daughter to the bloody blade that he took to a man he mistakenly recognised as her rapist. With intro over The Butcher (and don't even think pro-wrestling) declares it year zero. From here on it's an ever-downward spiralling loss of control. Despite his best efforts violence comes quickly and often not in his favour. We also cop shards of his nihilistic philosophy as things get way out of hand and he gives in to his worst fears and frustrations.

In a rush you could consider I Stand Alone as a member of the revenge drama field that includes everything from I Spit On Your Grave and Maniac to Walking Tall but this film pushes the envelope into an entirely new postcode. Firmly taking advantage of both ancient and modern technology I Stand Alone welds drama and documentary into one iron bar of a film that will assault your skull leaving damage that cannot be repaired quickly or easily. You don't have to be in the meat trade to recognise the futility and frustration of the Butcher's situation. Perhaps, I Stand Alone could be more readily characterised as a drama of loss with no redemption, but whatever way you look at it you should do whatever it takes to do so.
The colour yellow seeps into every frame of I Stand Alone as if it's completely piss-soaked. Fitting art-direction for a film that balances its thematic roughness with sometimes shaky camera moves and gritty, grainy overall (16mm?) finish. The transfer mightn't be sharp enough for some but that's life which is what I Stand Alone replicates in all its scummy, scuzzy and highly blemished glory.
The stereo surround mix works well at all times with the minimal but overly dramatic music soundtrack used more as loud punctuation that brings it's own sense of unease to the proceedings. Ambient sound burbling in backgrounds is also effectively used to add to the generally oppressive atmosphere.
Extra Features
The Verdict
Downbeat but not entirely dour I Stand Alone is set in 1980 in an industrially ancient and decayed suburbia that not even hardcore penetration shots can alleviate. You may be more familiar with the director's next film Irreversible of which it bears more than a few stylish similarities (and a smaller budget) but you'd be doing yourself an incredible disservice to overlook I Stand Alone.
Movie Score
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