A distraught woman (Anna, played by Bonnaire)
walks into an office and begins revealing intimate details of her
married life, under the misapprehension that the man facing her
is a psychoanalyst. Luchini’s William is,
in fact, a tax lawyer, but he not only does nothing to correct her
mistaken notion, he allows her to schedule another appointment.
Implausible, you say? Ridiculous, you scoff? You say people don’t
behave like that? Anyone we know, faced with such a situation, would
have informed Anna of her mistake without letting her share such
personal information, yes? Well yeah. I know I wouldn’t find
it too hard to shut her down and tell her who I was.
Yes, but. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you
didn’t do what you know you should, if you surrendered control
of a situation, if you behaved the way only people in movies behave,
have I got an A-ticket for you. Intimate Strangers, for
all its implausible conceit, is entertaining and I urge you to surrender
control and be at the mercy of the storyteller, the way characters
in the movie are.
When we do what we think we should, we have an illusion of control
over a situation. We have a mental vision of how the situation could
resolve itself. The vision may be wrong, for truly, we do not possess
anywhere near the amount of control we believe we do, but we at
least have a picture of what will happen. When we do not do as we
should—when we commit unpredictable, out-of-character acts—we
have no picture, not even a faulty one, of what will happen next.
Who would need that respite more than a tax lawyer?
The deception is too flimsy to last, of course, yet once she learns
of her error, Anna continues to visit William’s office for
weekly “sessions.” It’s pretty humorous to watch
William become more and more entranced with Anna’s revelations
and more and more curt with his actual tax clients. And while these
sessions may go where you expect them to, at least they take the
road less traveled to get there. Along the way, there are entertaining
side characters to watch. Particularly engaging are the real psychoanalyst
(Duchaussoy), who becomes William’s mentor,
and Mme. Mulon (Surgere), William’s secretary,
who makes her blistering opinions perfectly clear by mere glances.
Anna’s husband comes off as the only serious character misstep
in this movie. Another minus involves rather ham-handed visual clues
that Anna is making progress in her “therapy”: On her
initial visit, she’s wearing more clothes than a polar explorer,
but her layers peel off from scene to scene until, by the end of
the movie, she’s in a floaty floral sundress. Gosh.
This movie will stay with you, much the way Leconte’s flawed
previous outing, Man On The Train, does. There’s
something about his work: The bad parts are vexing at the time of
viewing, but what lingers in the mind are only the intriguing, good
parts, and a desire to watch again.