Stranger by the Lake

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L’inconnu du lac

“Absorbing and intelligent… this improbable cocktail makes for entrancing viewing.” — Boyd van Hoeij, Variety

Director: Alain Guiraudie
Year: 2013
Country: France
Running time: 97 mins
Censor Rating: R18 - violence, explicit sex scenes

Screenplay: Alain Guiraudie
Producer: Sylvie Pialat
Photography: Claire Mathon
Editor: Jean-Christophe Hym
Production designers: Roy Genty, François Labarthe, Laurent Lunetta
Sound: Philippe Grivel, Nathalie Vidal
In French with English subtitles
CinemaScope/DCP

With: Pierre Deladonchamps (Franck), Christophe Paou (Michel), Patrick D’Assumçao (Henri), Jérôme Chappatte (Inspector Damroder), Mathieu Vervisch (Eric), Gilbert Traina (Tuesday night man), Emmanuel Daumas (Philippe), Sébastian Badachaoui (Eric’s boyfriend)

Festivals: Cannes (Un Certain Regard) 2013
Best Director (Un Certain Regard), Cannes Film Festival 2013

A sensation at Cannes, and anywhere else it plays we’d imagine, Alain Guiraudie’s film is a seductive blend of beauty, eroticism and suspense in which multifarious desires are played out on a secluded, idyllic gay beach – and adjacent forest. A fresh, unclassifiable genre mix of sly humour, hardcore guy action, psychological thriller and murder mystery, it’s a big screen treat highly unlikely to be playing at any multiplex near you. Guiraudie conjures a luminous, liminal realm, disconnected from any other social reality, where the id can run wild. As our fresh young hero is aware, different visitors there seek different degrees of disconnection, but a new infatuation takes him swimming into dangerous waters indeed.

“Transgressive and transcendent… Our lead is the beautiful, swimmer’s-bod buff Franck, who struts around with genial confidence… Though he strikes up an easy friendship with the lonely, obese Henri, Franck’s eye and libido are more tickled by the 70s porn mustache-sporting Michel (Christophe Paou). The only potential problem? One evening, Franck witnesses Michel drowning one of his conquests, which he discovers does little to negate his attraction…

Go in aware that much of the sex is unsimulated, then revel in the ways Guiraudie uses his rigorous perspective, in addition to an always gorgeously-composed widescreen frame, to normalize behavior that is anathema in polite society… But also go in knowing that there are very real, very potent emotions underlying every action, be it an explicit sex act, a lingering embrace, or a horrible realization that meting out death does not necessarily preclude love.” — Keith Uhlich, Time Out NY