English Title: Stranger by the Lake
Original Title: L’inconnu du lac
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Writer: Alain Guiraudie
Cinematography: Claire Mathon
A much-hyped critics-darling since Cannes this year, a sudden bonanza for French director/writer Guiraudie, it ends up both in this year’s Top 10 lists of SIGHT & SOUND and CAHIERS DU CINEMA (where it nabs the 10th slot and first place respectively). So undisputedly it is a movie one shouldn’t miss, also plugged by its explicit gay sex scenes, the stimuli are ample.
Scale-wise, it is an original uni-locale (a nudists beach where gay men cruise around in the nearby woods) theatrical experiment with limited roles conversing, swimming, peeping, rumination and sexing up, inclusively shot under natural lighting (the climax in the hours of darkness couldn’t be more instantaneously spine-chilling and expectant) and devoid of music manipulation. The film initiates each day with the same frame angle aiming to the parking alley and we follow the ambivalent path of Franck (Deladonchamps)’s infatuation with the enigmatic Michel (Paou), who is deadly alluring but murderous, step by step, Franck is drawn into this excitement of uncertainty (and of course, the euphoric pleasure from the carnal knowledge), his desperate measure to move their relationship onto another level is at odd with Michel’s no sleepover involvement, which reflects the quagmire of modern-day relationship syndrome, not exclusive in homosexual club.
Another sub-plot relates to the purely platonic friendship between Franck and a rotund carpenter Henri (d’Assumçao), the only non-nudist and a bystander on the beach, there is awkward silence in between tellingly suggests the league-boundary is more tensile than one thinks. DP Claire Mathon runs the gamut from the lingering long-distance shots to the more fluid subjective takes (the murder scene in the lake from the viewpoint of Franck combines both into the apotheosis), not to mention the hardcore material in its graphic presentation, I’m not an alarmist, so the bold bravura gains many points for the film per se.
Guiraudie never makes intelligible of the murder case and the turnaround to a modest slasher near the coda is a bit precipitous but the abrupt ending justifies this entrancing feature as the crème de la crème in the art house branch because it leaves the viewers in a state of transcending suspense and never quench it.
Deladonchamps excels in his guileless jock appearance with a more traditional value of romance; Paou submerges into a more opaque vision as a perfect lover full of temptation and threat, yet detrimentally irresistible. Truly, STRANGER BY THE LAKE is an emboldened genre-breaker, unlike the spearheading gay romance WEEKEND (2011), it manifests a different facet of desire, stress and self-delusion among us.