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  Intimate Strangers Tell All
Year: 2004
Director: Patrice Leconte
Stars: Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Anne Brochet, Gilbert Melki, Laurent Gamelon, Hélène Surgère, Urbain Chancelier, Isabelle Petit-Jacques, Véronique Kapoyan, Benoît Pétré, Albert Simono
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) has an appointment with a psychiatrist this afternoon, but as she arrives late in the building the concierge points her to the correct room on the sixth floor and she manages to get it wrong, walking into the office of William (Fabrice Luchini). She sits down at his desk as requested, because he is under the impression she is here for financial advice for he is a tax expert, only for her to start telling him of her unhappy marriage. He listens politely, used to his clients informing him of the background to their cases, but it's only when she gets up to leave that he twigs all is not right...

A Hitchcock thriller that isn't what it seems would be an apt description of director Patrice Leconte's Intimate Strangers, or Confidences trop intimes as you'd know it if you were French-speaking, as here he took one of his familiar lonely man characters and made it look as if to all intents and purposes he was getting involved in a plot way over his head. Watching this you might feel you were far ahead of William, and thinking up possible scenarios for him to fall victim to: you'd seen enough film noir, or at least enough movies influenced by film noir, to expect some kind of mishap. Yet here it would seem Leconte was leading you up the garden path.

This could have been setting the audience up for an anticlimax, but somehow once you had finished watching it didn't come across that way, probably thanks to the two French acting heavyweights taking the lead roles. We can tell from Luchini's mannerisms that his William is an innocent in this premise, a man who has led a thwarted life where he lives in his father's old office, with his father's old job, and trying but failing to get over a divorce which isn't easy when his ex, Jeanne (Anne Brochet), remains on such friendly terms with him. He really needs a change of scenery, cooped up in that office which doubles as his home for days on end, and it could be that Anna is the woman to offer that.

However, she still believes he is her psychiatrist, and is pouring her heart out to him in brief bursts of therapy, which he knows he should point out to her that are in no way official because he is not a licenced shrink, but somehow is so captivated that he cannot. The fact is, he really enjoys the company of Anna, so when she disappears from his life he wants to make the connection once again and he tries to get her phone number from the actual psychiatrist (Michel Duchaussoy) down the hall. He susses what William is up to and proceeds to give him friendly advice (yet still charges!), but it might be too late as Anna makes contact to let him know the game is up and she is now well aware of the subterfuge.

This could have gone a number of ways, but Leconte preferred to string us along until practically the end of the movie before revealing what was actually going on, and even then you may have questions. Anna decides that no matter if William wasn't who she thought he was, she is going to continue seeing him and soon a curious relationship develops where we're not sure if he's amateurishly analysing her or she is more precisely taking his psychology to bits. His behaviour undoubtedly alters, but does this mean he's falling in love, and if he is, it this reciprocated? For that matter, is what Anna tells him about her unhappy marriage true or is she building up to some grand revelation which will shift the ground under her new confidante's feet? The thought that either William is about to be involved with a murder or some dodgy sexual games playing makes Anna's candour rather odd in retrospect, yet that Leconte did not go the obvious route has an interesting effect. Pascal Estève composed the uneasy music.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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