I Stand Alone, Gaspar Nöe's uncompromising look at the depths of despair, may be the most repugnant movie since Mike Leigh's Naked--a gutter-crawl through the streets of Paris, which seems less like the City of Light than the City of Blight. In an amazingly convincing performance, Philippe Nahon is an unemployed butcher who turns everything around him into his personal abattoir. Through voice-over, we're privy to his thoughts, and they're wickedly fascinating, a polluted stream of consciousness that would make Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle blush like a schoolgirl. Only the butcher's daughter, who's mute and perhaps autistic, has a place in his heart, and it's not a place fathers are supposed to occupy.
Set in 1980, I Stand Alone offers a sociopolitical context for the butcher's rantings and ravings; Le Pen and his National Front are right around the corner, and the script all but shouts "It's the economy, stupid." But the movie works best as a nihilist rattling of the cage we all live in, one way or another. And Nöe, who also wrote, shot and co-edited the movie, keeps us on edge by periodically doing this skip-frame/swish-pan number to the sound of a very loud, very resonant gun going off; it's totally unnerving. Ironically, the only thing that makes I Stand Alone bearable is the sheer brio that Nöe brings to this portrayal of a man whose joie de vivre has curdled into anger, resentment, hate and rage.