Tuesday, July 14, 2020

I Stand Alone (1998)

A number of 1990s independent films were criticized as being “too indie” or “too foreign”. Most of these criticisms came from the US and UK, where experimental style wasn’t a big thing yet. Nowadays, anything goes. Back in the ’90s, the slightest bit of style made a film “weird”.

Enter the mind of Gaspar Noé in 1991. He had just finished his short cinematic masterpiece Carne (loosely translated: “horse meat”). It was awesome. Seven years later, the film was reborn in feature form as I Stand Alone.


It’s eerie seeing a young girl so many years later at the same age and point in her life.

I Stand Alone (French: Seul contre tous) is Gaspar Noé’s feature film debut.

Gaspar is one of Harmony Korine’s good buddies from Europe, and a rebellious voice in art. He fills his films with flashing lights, sex and violence, philosophical shit, and basically anything that would scare off the typical mainstream audience. His work in the ’90s is tame compared to the style he is now known for, yet his ’90s style was almost revolutionary at the time.

It’s rare to see such monotone dedication over seven years, which explains the radical departure in the writer/director’s subsequent works. There was a shift from the cinematic quality of Carne and I Stand Alone to the extreme cinema verite style of films like Irréversible (2002). If you want to watch characters looking for “interesting” situations, with a constantly drifting camera, in reverse chronology, Gaspar has a lot more style in the 21st century.

That’s not to criticize the more conventional filmmaking of I Stand Alone. It’s still a work of postmodernism, and it has its place. I would go so far as to call it an accessible European arthouse film. However, there is a scene where a character watches hardcore porn. Maybe it’s not for Grandma.

I Stand Alone centers around The Butcher, played by legendary European actor Philippe Nahon, reprising his role from Carne. Like Cynthia (pictured above) The Butcher has not changed since 1991. There is an uncanny sense of timelessness about this and other Gaspar Noé films, like they come from another dimension.

Blandine Lenoir reprises her role as Cynthia, the slightly off and completely mute daughter of the protagonist. I like the character. I like her enough that I wish she had some dialogue. The actress went on to pen the screenplay for Zouzou (2014), and overall she has had a fairly successful career. I have not seen her in many films, but her credits are long and varied. Her other work is probably worth checking out.

The thing with The Butcher is that he isn’t much of a people person, hence the title. You can see it in his face.


There is no need to cover the plot, since European films tend to prioritize characters. Plot is an American concept. Things happen, but it’s not an epic struggle, a hero’s journey, or any foolishness like that. This is a film about characters with more going through their heads than average people you meet on the street, and it’s fun to see volatile people in European situations.

Add comment

Fill out the form below to add your own comments