Simultaneously gripping and obscure, Claire Denis' most challenging film to date is a fascinating exploration of one man's heart of darkness — one that's traded in for a stranger's and a second chance at a life. Aging and reclusive, Louis Trebor (Nouvelle Vague stalwart Michel Subor) lives alone in the bucolic Jura Mountains on the French-Swiss border. Refusing to have much to do with his son, Sidney (Gregoire Colin), who lives outside of Geneva with his wife (Florence Loiret-Calle), a border guard, and their infant son, Louis spends most of his days cycling along through the hills, swimming nude in the clear lake on his property and tending to his two dogs; his only human contact seems to be with an equally hermetic dog breeder (Beatrice Dalle), and his lover (Bambou), a local pharmacist who regularly delivers the medication for Louis' slowly failing heart. Suspecting that illegal border crossers have been trespassing on his property, Louis slips out of bed one night and silently slits an intruder's throat. Louis hides the body and returns to his bed and the sleeping pharmacist. Not long after, Louis withdraws his money from a Geneva bank and, after making the necessary arrangements with a mysterious Russian woman (Katia Golubeva), undergoes a black market heart transplant. After recovering from the surgery in Pusan, Korea, Louis uses the balance of his money to buy a trawler and heads south to Tahiti, hoping to reunite with the son he fathered with a local woman years before. Dogging his steps, however, is the specter of the mysterious Russian, a Faustian broker who will soon claim a steep price for the second life she's given Louis. Based in part on French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy's memoir of his heart transplant and subsequent battle with cancer, the "intruder" of the title refers to not only Louis' victim, who acts as the catalyst for his journey into a second life, but the stranger's heart that now beats within Louis' chest. In the end, it can also refer to Louis himself, who turns his back on one son to search for another, returning to a place where he's no longer wanted to reclaim what he gave up years before. (Instead of shooting flashbacks, Denis takes a cue from Steven Soderbergh's THE LIMEY and makes clever use of clips from LE REFLUX, an unreleased 1965 color film starring a young Subor). Assorted corpses, at least one unclaimed heart and Beatrice Dalle are just a few of the tantalizing loose ends Denis leaves dangling, but the film is surprisingly satisfying and meaningful. What that meaning may be, however, will depend mostly on the intrepid viewer.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Simultaneously gripping and obscure, Claire Denis' most challenging film to date is a fascinating exploration of one man's heart of darkness — one that's traded in for a stranger's and a second chance at a life. Aging and reclusive, Louis Trebor (Nouvelle… (more)