A sly and seductive thriller

Published September 3, 2004 12:02 am
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Intimate Strangers

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Looking at the mysteries of love and sex, in this sharp French thriller.

Rated R for sexual dialogue; in French with subtitles; 105 minutes.

Opening today at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.


Can you have a Hitchcockian thriller without a body, or even a crime? Yes, and cleverly so, as director Patrice Leconte (Man on the Train, The Girl on the Bridge) shows in Intimate Strangers, a love story in the form of a psychological mystery.

William Faber, played by Fabrice Luchini, is a lonely tax attorney who one day gets an unexpected client, Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), who unburdens herself about her frigid husband and his demands that she take a lover and report back with the dirty details. Too late, William realizes Anna must think he's the psychiatrist down the hall, but when she asks for a second appointment, William is too shocked - or too intrigued - to set her straight.

More appointments commence, even after Anna figures out that William isn't a shrink, and a strange game of emotional cat-and-mouse ensues. Things get more complicated after William consults with the psychiatrist (Michel Duchaussoy) Anna was supposed to meet, and when Anna's thuggish husband (Gilbert Melki) shows up unannounced in William's office.

Most of the movie's action is in the conversations, a tight set of tte--ttes between Bonnaire (La Ceremonie) and Luchini (Beaumarchais the Scoundrel) in the dark confines of William's office. The byplay - sometimes with William advising the twitchy Anna, but just as often the insecure William looking for a sign in Anna's flirtations - is at once seductive and dangerous, and both stars give plenty of depth to their complex characters.

Leconte slyly tweaks us with some Hitchcock touches, like William's doubting of Anna's story (a la Suspicion) or William's Rear Window-view of the hotel across the street. It's not a twisted mystery, but the tension between the words spoken by William and Anna, that keep the viewer guessing which way Intimate Strangers will break next.




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