Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), a troubled woman on her way to see a psychiatrist for the first time, accidentally chooses the wrong office and is greeted by William Faber (Fabrice Luchini) who, unbeknownst to Anna, is actually a mild-mannered tax accountant. Anna launches without hesitation into the most intimate details of her marriage and sex life to the startled Faber who is so riveted that he accepts a second appointment.
Fifty-six-year-old gay Parisian director, Patrice Leconte, is prolific to say the least. He has made 20 features in just over 30 years of filmmaking and is known for constantly reinventing his moviemaking style. Leconte’s films have ranged from last year’s mid-life crisis fable, The Man On The Train, to costume dramas such as the Oscar-nominated Ridicule (1996) starring Fanny Ardant and The Widow Of St Pierre (2000) starring Juliette Binoche; as well as the black comedy Monsieur Hire (1989) and unconventional romances such as The Hairdresser’s Husband (1990) and The Girl On The Bridge (1999).
At Berlin in 2004 Patrice Leconte announced that Intimate Strangers (Confidences Trop Intimes) might well be his final take on love and intimate affairs. Perhaps this is why he is so determined to broaden his usual exploration of sexuality, obsession and fate to include lust, fear, secrets and misunderstandings. And, because he says he is exploring the stuff of modern relationships, the central construct of the film is therapy. In Leconte’s case, therapy takes the form of talking. In this film the listener to the talk plays the voyeur.
In Intimate Strangers, Leconte pairs the flammable sexuality of 37-year-old French leading actor Sandrine Bonnaire, who also starred in Monsieur Hire, with 50-plus Fabrice Luchini, a French comedian known for his witty lines, who had never worked with Leconte before. The yin-yang coupling of Bonnaire and Luchini adds a layer of fascination and repulsion to the film. Well-cast in supporting roles are French veterans H?ne Surg? as the accountant’s secretary and Michel Duchaussoy as the psychiatrist Anna was supposed to meet.
J?me Tonnerre (Bon Voyage) wrote the script as a love story with thriller elements. The film is more melodrama than thriller, reinforced by scenes where the guard of the building in which the action takes place watches a soap opera on television. These scenes provide some of the film’s most surreal moments and, along with the dance routine to Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour, the only light relief.
Intimate Strangers is an unpretentious but slight foray into a chance meeting that will alter the lives of the protagonists forever. It is not Leconte’s most accomplished film but, then again, even an average French drama is far superior to anything that has graced our screens in weeks.