Intimate Strangers
Directed by Patrice Leconte
Written by Jerome Tonnerre
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini


Intimate Strangers

The title in French is "Confidences Trop Intimes," which would translate more accurately if less smoothly as "Secrets Too Intimate." It's the story of a middle-aged Paris accountant, William Faber (Fabrice Luchini), working out of the same office as his father had, with the same secretary, Madame Mulon (Helene Surgere), and still living in the apartment he grew up in. Down the hall is the office of a psychiatrist, Dr. Monnier (Michel Duchaussoy). One afternoon a beautiful woman, Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), walks into Faber's office, sits across from his desk, and begins telling him her problems. She has mistaken him for the psychiatrist. But Faber sits immobile. He cannot correct her mistake and he knows he shouldn't be listening, but he cannot stop. When Madame Mulon announces his next - accounting - appointment Anna gets up and leaves, making another appointment for herself.

Leconte now has us by the throat, or the balls, or by whatever part of our anatomy is most responsive to the intimate secrets of strangers. What will William do? Is this really a mistake on Anna's part? One thing William does is consult with Dr. Monnier, who charges him for the consultation, even though it takes place at a café. We begin by thinking this will be a farce, but Leconte and his screenwriter Jerome Tonnerre, who wrote the magnificent "Un Coeur en Hiver," are much too good at their business to settle for a quick laugh. As Anna reveals more of herself we see that William too begins to understand himself as well. We are less concerned with how or when the mistake will be unraveled than we are with getting to know the two of them as people. Leconte, whose last film was the very lovely "The Man on the Train," in which each of his two protagonists find comfort in visualizing themselves as the other, has here made a softer, quieter film that still pulses with wit and invention.

His actors are perfect. Bonnaire as Anna has the tics and mannerisms of a neurotic wife; Luchini is the classic repressed professional, who still might have one more chance for adventure, hiding somewhere in his fantasies - if only he could let them out. The film is not a masterpiece, but it is well worth your time.