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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Catherine Cabrol}

photo caption:
IA CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY: William (Fabrice Luchini, left) a tax attorney, posing as a psychotherapist, invites his "patient" Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) into his office for one of their therapy sessions.
end caption.


"Intimate Strangers" (Confidences Trop Intimes): Another Paradoxical Pairing of Protagonists Courtesy of Patrice Leconte

Review by Kam Williams

French Director Patrice Leconte has perfected the art of probing the human psyche by placing a couple of strangers with nothing in common into emotionally straining circumstances. In 1997, he landed a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination for Ridicule, a biting satire about social climbing.

More recently, he received critical acclaim for Girl on the Bridge (1999), a melodrama which revolved around the relationship of a suicidal 21 year-old nymphomaniac and the middle-aged circus performer who talks her out of jumping. Last year, he successfully paired a straitlaced professor with a bank thief he unknowingly befriends at the drug store in Man on a Train.

Intimate Strangers (Confidences Trop Intimes), the latest in Leconte's intriguing offerings, is a thought provoking inquiry into the nature of longing and desire. Set in present day Paris, this multi-layered mystery follows the liaison between unhappily-married Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) and William (Fabrice Luchini), the tax attorney she mistakes for her new psychoanalyst, Dr. Monnier (Michael Duchaussoy).

Instead of immediately informing the attractive woman of her mistake, William welcomes the interruption to his humdrum existence. Anna, by contrast, is so consumed by an urgent need to discuss her problems that she fails to notice that she's sitting in a lawyer's office or that her attentive counselor isn't even a psychotherapist.

After requesting permission to smoke, the distraught chain-smoker proceeds to share the particulars of her problems. She's been married for four years to a man whose demeanor changed when he had to stop working suddenly. Now, he's stopped touching her and treats her like a little girl. With no one to talk to besides her abusive hubby, Anna says she's seeking psychiatric help because she's afraid she'll go mad otherwise.

At this point the picture presents the first of a series of ethical concerns. Should William inform Anna of her mistaken presumption, or should he allow the vulnerable woman's very personal revelations to continue? Not only does the unscrupulous attorney opt for the latter, but he takes a check at the end of the session and schedules her for regular weekly appointments.

Between visits he consults with the real Dr. Monnier, whose office is down the hall, on how to handle his neurotic new patient. While Monnier doesn't blow the impostor's cover, he does suggest that William might be the one who needs help, and he charges him for this advice.

With each session, Anna opens up more and more, sharing increasingly intimate aspects of her private life. Soon, it becomes impossible for the untrained William to winnow out fact from fiction in listening to the graphic details, because new parts of her tale appear to contradict earlier ones.

Though he can't tell whether he's dealing with a seriously disturbed patient, or a manipulative one with a secret agenda, William is too turned on by his client's fantasies to admit that he is in way over his head. What complicates the labyrinthine plot further is Anna's apparent sense of violation when she learns that she's being treated by a fraud. Surprisingly, she decides to continue with the soul-baring sessions.

The palpable sexual tension between the two mounts as William attempts to unravel the mystery of Anna's mind. Will they or won't they, and why or why not? Intimate Strangers is an unpredictable drama which cleverly keeps the audience on edge and guessing right up until the very end. Kudos to Patrice Leconte for a provocative mood piece.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for graphic sexual dialogue. In French with subtitles.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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