First bite of a new series.

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The best part of this new series is that I can watch some old favorites. I hope you enjoy as we roll through films that are considered extreme or disturbing.

Gaspar Noe is one of the most interesting directors around. His first feature length film I Stand Alone solidifies Noe as both a competent and daring creator of dark and disturbing narratives. We follow Le Boucher (or The Butcher) as his life falls apart around him. Most of the story is told to us through the Butcher’s inner monologues, and we get to see a deep glimpse into the throes of nihilism and an attempt at possible reconciliation with his estranged daughter.

The film is a tragedy through and through, but it is hard to determine whether one will sympathize with the Butcher or not. On the surface we have a completely despicable character (to be fair, he is probably also a monster on the inside). He isn’t an anti-hero—he is straight up a monster.

We get a brief history of the Butcher at the start, and his life is indeed dark. From violence, abandonment, and sexual molestation we see that his twisted mentality is very much a result of his environment. Noe dares the audience to condone or excuse the man throughout.

It is interesting to watch the movie a second time through. The start of the film does show the Butcher as a problematic, but at least somewhat sympathetic character. Granted, the extreme violence in the early film detracts from this feeling, but it is there. Noe wants us to understand the man more than anything else. He is both a human and a monster—something that is often attempted but rarely done so well. In one moment you might want him to succeed only to have the next scene make your stomach churn.

One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is that we truly get a look into a real life. The Butcher is a remarkable bastard, but his situation isn’t unique. He simply cannot handle the dehumanizing nature of work and feels that he is somehow above it all. Despite his delusions of grandeur, his angst and misery are something that most people who watch the film will be able to relate to on at least some level.

To totally contradict myself, the Butcher dives into complete madness about a third of the way through the film. His descent into pure misanthropy is amazing to watch. The moments of intense (but not gratuitous) violence and the indifference after are what makes this film a frequent pick on most disturbing cinema lists.

I am not sure how disturbing or extreme I would rate this movie (granted I am probably too desensitized to be a good test). It is a powerful film that shows a horrible person in an honest light. As he traverses through the underbellies of France we see a mixture of wrath and sorrow. His ill-fated attempts at reconciliation will uplift you and shatter you in mere moments. We get insights into a disturbed and horrible person that feels a little too familiar to ever feel comfortable while watching.

The plot is hard to define without giving too much away. The film is an experience, and the camerawork, acting, and dialogue are all top notch. I cannot recommend this film enough. I find it to be one of the best films to address themes of nihilism and despair. We witness a wrathful sexist, racist, homophobe get what is coming to him and yet there is something about the film that is so powerfully compelling I cannot look away. The ending teases a possible redemption only to have the floor fall out with gut wrenching implications.

Definitely worth watching. 9.5/10

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