“What to declare and what to hide.”
In Intimate Strangers, William (Fabrice Luchini), a Parisian tax lawyer, is at the end of his working day, when an attractive young woman named Anna arrives claiming that she has an appointment. Expecting the usual presentation of tax problems, William is both shocked and intrigued when Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) begins to weepily unburden herself with a litany of marital woes. At first, William is too stunned to respond, but then it dawns on him that Anna think he’s the psychiatrist, Dr. Monnier (Michel Duchaussoy), two doors down. At this point, William should do the ethical thing and reveal that Anna is in the wrong office. But he doesn’t … instead he makes an appointment with Anna for the following week.
Flirting with guilt, William approaches an old girlfriend, Jeanne (Anne Brochet) and explains his dilemma. She’s horrified by William’s lack of forthrightness, and she senses that William is attracted to Anna, and that’s why he’s reluctant to come clean.
While William struggles with his dilemma, Anna discovers the truth, but then she begins to show up for ‘chats’ anyway. The film explores the relationship between William and Anna–they now have no doctor-patient professional bond, and they’re not exactly friends. William’s disapproving secretary, Madame Mulon (Helene Surgere) is dying to get to the bottom of the relationship. With a strong Freudian approach, the film focuses on both William and Anna’s contrasting backgrounds, and the appeal they hold for each other becomes increasingly clear. The film’s delicate and ironic humour casts William–a man who’s never, ever stepped out of line in his life–suddenly in a delectably untenable position. Is his own life so anemic that he’s now become an armchair emotional vampire addicted to Anna’s salacious confidences? And what about Anna’s role? Does she just need a friendly (free) shoulder to cry on, or is something darker afoot? …
Luchini is one of my favourite French actors, and his ability to act with just his facial expressions fits the role of William very well. This is a role in which William is supposed to listen, and Luchini’s control over his facial expressions is–as always–quite extraordinary. As a fan of director Patrice Leconte’s work, I consider Hairdresser’s Husband, Monsieur Hire, The Widow of St Pierre, Girl of the Bridge some of the best films I’ve ever seen. One of Leconte’s favourite themes is the emotional distance between people whose ability to truly communicate and bridge these distances is usually adversely affected by the emotional scars of life. Can the emotional distance between people be bridged, and if it cannot, does it matter? Can an unconventional relationship with inherent emotional distances between the participants still exist? Intimate Strangers (Confidences Trop Intimes) explores these questions through the main characters. This film is NOT a romance, and to see it as such is to underestimate its message. Discard the idea of a romance, and consider the final scene. In French with English subtitles.