Twice I’ve seen The Intruder and twice I’ve struggled with it, resisting it as I might a home invasion. Its dissonance is relentless and seems to work almost as an inoculation—an avant-garde fix—against what Claire Denis might perceive to be the malady of conventional artistic expression. The director’s images work on a physical level, burrowing their way into the unconscious in a way that reminds me of those mesmerizing images of wafting cosmic space from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Stanley Kubrick conveyed using cans of paint. Denis communicates her own wraithlike vision of spiritual uncertainty through poetic shifts in register as expansive as the gap between Béatrice Dalle’s front teeth and a gripping score by Stuart A. Staples of The Tindersticks that should be on CD. Even when it grinds slowly and repetitiously, the film feels unfamiliar—a transmission or S.O.S. from another world. Followers of The Intruder have described feelings of dislocation, like survivors of a storm. If the story came with a label, like a Chiquita banana sticker, it might read “100% Ellipses” (in a comment on Matt Zoller Seitz’s blog, Charles Taylor describes the narrative as such: “It’s like a tub of ice cream out of which big scoops have been taken.”). Watching it is not altogether agreeable, but the film lingers in the mind and feels healthy for the soul. What deepens the corporeal effect of the film’s aesthetic is that the story itself is about a heart transplant. That somnolent, sinking feeling the film conveys, then, is boredom laced with fear—the threat that mind, body, and spirit could cave in on us at any second.
The film’s original aspect ratio is presented here in anamorphic widescreen. There are some minor edge enhancement issues, but it’s a clean presentation overall with pleasant grain levels and no noticeable dirt or grime to mar the experience of the film. The audio is just perfect, though I freely admit that my affection for Stuart A. Staples’s fucktastic score may be clouding my judgment here.
An outstanding 35-minute interview with Claire Denis that’s every bit as rich but infinitely more expressive than Gavin Smith’s exchange with the director in Film Comment earlier this year. Denis reveals a profound connection to Jean-Luc Nancy’s work and drops some really fascinating anecdotes, like Nancy showing Michel Subor the scar on his chest when they first met and Denis instructing Subor to channel-get this-Johnny Cash into his performance. Also included here: a series of filmographies, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a bunch of trailers for other Wellspring titles.
Walk the line with Claire Denis’s The Intruder but take slow, deep breaths afterward.