Part of what's enjoyable about watching foreign films is that the characters are often played by unfamiliar actors, and thus come without the baggage of other roles; the only familiar face in Intimate Strangers for me was Gilbert Melki, who appeared in the "Trilogy" movies but has a fairly small role here. Sandrine Bonnaire (Anna) and Fabrice Luchini (William) are just these characters for me right now.Shame they're not in a more interesting movie. It's got an interesting set-up - attractive woman with marital problems goes into the wrong office and winds up confessing her marital problems to a tax attorney rather than a psychiatrist - and he is too stunned to immediately correct her. It's a situation that really can't be strung out too long before it becomes absurd, and director Patrice Leconte doesn't, having Anna figure out the situation before her third visit.
Unfortunately, Leconte and screenwriter Jérôme Tonnerre don't have much to replace that with. The two of them talk, we see some background on William's life - he and his ex Jeanne (Anne Brochet) are friendly, and he has inherited his father's clients, office, and secretary. Luchini has a sort of sad-sack face, and his slumped body language indicates a sort of uncertain dissatisfaction. Ms. Bonnaire is pleasant enough, but the filmmakers keep her character somewhat in reserve. There's a half-hearted effort to make the film's last half into a thriller of sorts as Anna's husband Marc (Melki) enters the picture, but it doesn't amount to much.
That's the problem with the movie. I got William's dissatisfaction pretty quick, and sort of liked the guy, but never felt the story was anything special. Luchini and Bonnaire are pleasant enough together, but don't generate a lot of heat. It's an open question as to whether we'd rather see William with Anna or with Jeanne, or whether he's interesting enough to make a good match with either.Paramount Classics turned this movie around fairly quickly, getting it from France to American theaters in less than six months, presumably to capitalize on the relatively recent success of Leconte's Man on the Train. I haven't seen that movie, so I can't say how this compares. Based upon this movie, though, I'm not terribly tempted to seek the rest of Leconte's body of work out. Just too much talking and not enough happening.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.