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Intimate Strangers
Intimate Strangers
Actors: Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Anne Brochet, Gilbert Melki
Director: Patrice Leconte
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2004     1hr 44min


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Movie Details

Actors: Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Anne Brochet, Gilbert Melki
Director: Patrice Leconte
Creators: Eduardo Serra, Patrice Leconte, Joëlle Hache, Alain Sarde, Christine Gozlan, Jérôme Tonnerre
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/28/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 44min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

"Listening is a lost art in our times."
Jana L. Perskie | New York, NY USA | 02/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Anna, (Sandrine Bonnaire), opens the wrong door and ends up in the office of tax attorney William Faber, (Fabrice Luchini), instead of next door for her first appointment with Dr. Monnier, a psychiatrist. Before the bemused Farber can straighten things out, Anna begins to unburden herself candidly, as if she's been on the couch for years. "I have an urgent problem," says she. Then, confessing that her marriage is on the rocks, her husband unemployed and impotent - he hasn't touched her in six months - she begins to cry. William is stunned, moved by her tears, but before he can respond she is out the door. Fast exit, no payment. Everyone knows that the fee is part of therapy.

Faber's life is bland. He lives in the flat where he was born, never having moved or really traveled. He inherited his father's business and many of the old clients. Used to an orderly existence, he lives alone and usually takes dinner by himself, with a glass of wine, while listening to music. Occasionally, through the window, he catches glimpses of couples, other lives. Jeanne, his last and perhaps only love, (Anne Brochet of the wonderful smile), left him for another man but they get together occasionally and maintain a close friendship. He is decidedly intrigued by Anna's visit but does not expect a repeat performance.

He is fascinated after visit number 2, when he finally manages to blurt out, "I'm not a doctor." Anna responds quickly, that she knows many therapists are not doctors and that's fine by her. Again, she leaves quickly. William is the one to visit Dr. Monnier, the shrink, (Michel Duchaussoy), who tells him that this situation is about his own problems and not Anna's. He also explains that accounting and psychiatry are not that different because, "they both decide what to hide and what to reveal."

As Anna and William's sessions continue and become more intimate and graphic, William is clearly aroused, almost titillated at times. He obviously begins to develop feelings for this confused, attractive woman, who says she wants nothing more than to regain her husband's affections. Yet, the two are deeply drawn to each other, their role playing is a way to form a bond without emotional risk. They are both odd, but sympathetic characters. William had dreams of adventure once, when younger, however he has become entrenched, staid, with middle age. A sensitive but repressed man, he has not lived life to the fullest. He is captivated by the graceful, unpredictable Anna. And she is intense, mysterious, vulnerable, and one gets a sense that no one has ever bothered to listen to her before. But can she be trusted?

Anna eventually learns Farber's true identity as a financial planner - just when he was making such progress as a therapist too. The plot takes a further twist when Marc, Anna's creepy husband, enters the picture which adds another touch of Hitchcock to the mix. The movie does succeed in becoming a low-keyed, but taut thriller. William's secretary, Madame Mulon, (Helene Surgere), adds a light touch as she tries to discover what on earth is going on behind the closed doors of her employer's office.

Patrice Leconte is an excellent director. He has a knack for developing characters, and here he has two superb actors to work with. The brooding musical score is atmospheric and serves to add tension. One of the film's major themes is expressed clearly by Dr. Monnier who says, "Listening is a lost art in our times: not even barbers, beauticians, or bartenders seem to have the knack or the patience anymore to attend to others in this way." I was deeply touched by "Intimate Strangers." It is an elusive piece, romantic, Freudian in a good sense, with a wonderful conclusion. Highly recommended!
How we give and how we receive, watch very closely now
Rudy Mann | 07/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"`Attraction and avoidance' is a common enough theme in romantic movies. What's unique in Intimate Strangers is the setting and therefore the intricate dance that it creates.

Man and woman are brought face to face by a farcical error. On her first visit to her psychiatrist, Anna's distracted thoughts take her unwittingly to the office of a tax consultant. The general discrete atmosphere seems fitting enough, and she reveals to William, uncensored, the intimate details of her married life. Shy, hurt and lonely from his previous relationship-failure he is glad for the company of this beautiful and appealing woman. He plays along with her mistake long enough to evidence to us his interest and all-too-human need hovering behind his life of professional competency. This creates the basis for a relationship that will sustain its verbal tango long after we expect its consummation.

What is the fascination here? Well, if our hormones aren't pounding too loudly, we may have asked ourselves what indeed we are seeking in relationship besides the immediate gratifications of sex and romantic infatuation. How can there be enough distance in a relationship of attraction to leave room for a sustained dialogue of depth? (And if dialogue is all we're after, what is the place of attraction in all of this?)

How do men surrender their positions of authority (whether psychiatrist or tax advisor) to reveal themselves? What does it mean when a woman lies down for a man? Is she (whether in the role of lover or patient) passively receiving, or, is it really the way women give care, creating a comforting space for their rigid men to feel relaxed enough to unburden themselves? If she's - "asking for it" - is "it" actually intimacy - the intimacy that men can reveal only when they've been soothed from the fear of what lies behind their own mask. Distance and closeness. Past hurt and desire. These are the strands that are woven together intricately and caringly in this fine picture.

"People have lost the art of listening"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Beautifully written and directed, with a penchant for understated romance and emotion, Intimate Strangers is all about that indefinable line that exists between sexuality and intimacy - between the boundaries of confidence and the realms of secrecy. The movie begins with an atmosphere of dark claustrophobia as these two complex and multi-faceted characters begin to open up to each other, and in doing so, manage to explore new facets of their long dormant personalities.

A distraught-looking mystery woman (a luminous Sandrine Bonnaire), walks down a windswept Parisian street. On the verge of middle age and desperately frustrated, she's on her way to her first appointment with Dr. Monnier (Michel Duchaussoy), a psychotherapist. The building's concierge, who is distracted by her favorite daytime soap opera, waves her toward the elevator and tells her she'll find the good doctor on the fifth floor. However, mistaking him for the neighboring psychiatrist, she accidentally who wanders into the office/apartment of William (Fabrice Luchini), a reclusive and solitary tax lawyer.

Immediately assuming that he's Dr. Monnier, the woman - whom we soon learn is named Anna - wastes no time letting out her grief on the quiet, sad-eyed and fastidious man. Nervously chain-smoking, she pours out her heart to him, not letting him get a word in edgewise. She tells him she's been married four years, her husband is at present unemployed, and has recently become sexually uninterested in her. His immediate reaction is an intriguing mixture of modesty and embarrassment, and when she starts talking about her sex life, he looks oddly troubled. But as the details become more graphic, he becomes strangely titillated.

He keeps up the façade and allows her to make another appointment. Confused and fascinated he, in turn, seeks advice from Dr. Monnier on how to deal with her. The Doctor suggests that William try to come clean but he can't. He also discusses the situation with his ex-girlfriend, Jeanne (Anne Brochet), and when she learns of the strange, intimate encounter, she becomes almost jealous and resentful. Gradually William becomes more and more obsessed with Anna, and believing that his sympathetic ear is doing her some good, gradually begins to fall in love with her.

Intimate Strangers is a story of how two people can, against all odds, fall into a platonic, almost surreal intimacy. A case of accidental mistaken identity infuses these two with a new lease on life, and forces them to make life-altering decisions. As their bond begins to form, Anna and William become more relaxed and open in their lives, both inside and outside of the office. But director, Leconte cleverly teases the viewer: As she becomes more relaxed and beautiful, we become just as obsessed with Anna as William is; we also wonder whether she is truly being honest and what her true motivations may be.

Later, when Anna's husband arrives on the scene, the story begins to take lots of psychological twists and turns as William is forced to confront once and for all his own feelings for her and his feelings for Jeanne, whom he still has a soft spot for. With truly outstanding performances, and cinematography that is absolutely astonishing, Intimate Strangers is psychologically complex and offers, with a subtle and restrained moodiness, the obsessive and fixated interest that we all have in the dark side of human nature and character. Mike Leonard March 05.
Playful,erotic?...ehh?...not quite enough!
KerrLines | Baltimore,MD | 04/20/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The idea is interesting: a woman walks into a tax accountant's office and mistakes him for a therapist...or does she? She divulges intimate details of her falling apart marriage in a few minutes and leaves. Very noir! This continues for weeks. Does the accountant reveal he is not a therapist? Is he going too far? Is she going too far?

When all is said and done, this terribly laborious Patrice Leconte film has little payoff. The plot, for lack of a better term, builds, but never really explodes. Instead, we are treated to a very unsatisfying bond that never actually materializes. I kept wanting something to justify the DVD advertizement; "Playful,erotic,suspenseful" and "One of the Best Movies of the Year", but nope...didn't happen!

I have seen all of these wonderful French actors before, Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Bonnaire and Anne Brochet, in much better roles. Patrice Leconte's work still is an up and down affair with me. Apart from Ridicule, Leconte's famous works The Girl On the Bridge (La Fille sur le pont) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Great Britain ], The Widow of Saint-Pierre, and Man on the Train (L'Homme du Train) leave me flat and wanting. Just not my cup of tea.

French with English subtitles. Wouldn't recommend unless Leconte is your end-all!"