L’ Intrus / The Intruder

Clair Denis does not make it easy for her fans. Her films are dense narratives with little exposition and even fewer clues as to what’s going on. They require your utmost attention, forcing you to put a lot of effort into deciphering the images you see before you. Who is that? What are they up to? How does this connect to that other thing I just saw? You’ll spend most of the film asking- and slowly answering- these questions. Many of them will remain unanswered by the film’s end.

L’Intrus is as dense as they come. We begin with a man in a truck going through a customs check-in where a woman with a drug-sniffing dog finds something illegal and asks him to step out of the vehicle. We then see a young father of twin babies bathing and feeding his children; he is the woman’s husband, we soon learn, and they have a steamy evening role playing a sexual fantasy- though Denis’ camera is anything but erotic. Through her lens, sex is just another animal behavior we all engage in, more lust than love, no different than what the dogs that populate this entire film do.

Save for a couple of poignant scenes, neither the man nor the woman appear in the film again- though they do serve an important connection to our actual protagonist, an older man named Louis with a shady past. To say more is to spill the narrative beans and rob you of Denis’ intent, which is to put the viewer in an uncomfortable situation and bombard them with disorienting sounds and images, forcing one to just take things as they are.

To that end, we travel the world- France, Geneva, Korea, Tahiti- each location a new set of sights, sounds and people to encounter and decode. Denis’ camera is claustrophobic, rarely affording you the luxury of taking breath of your surroundings. Hand held and shaky half the time, it deliberately forces your eye onto interpreting visual snippets, rather than the big picture. Inspired by a Jean-Luc Nancy essay of the same name, L’Intrus is an impressionistic collage of bits and pieces of life, scattered for you to pick up and piece together. It’s beautiful and memorable, confusing and frustrating- a poem worth sitting with and savoring.

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