Stranger by the Lake (2013) | Sex, sun and murder collide in Alain Guiraudie’s erotic and enigmatic Gallic thriller

 

Stranger By The Lake (2013)

YOU WANT TO SWIM WHERE A MAN DROWNED?
Tucked away on the shores of a secluded lake in rural southern France lies a naturist spot for gay men. As summer begins, so do the men come looking for anonymous sex in the woods behind the beach. While striking up a friendship with middle-age divorce Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), directionless Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) falls for the attractive, extremely potent Michel (Christophe Paou). But when he witnesses Michel drowning his ex-lover, Franck becomes torn between his desire for the murderer and turning him in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’D BE SCARED IF I WERE YOU
There’s an air of Genet, Renoir and Bresson in this provocative and accomplished effort from French bad boy auteur Alain Guiraudie, who took Best Director honours at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) for a highly-charged film that, while not strictly a thriller, certainly pays homage to the genre. (*)

Cloaked in the deceptive tranquility of the lake’s natural beauty, this is an enigmatic meditation on love, sex and illicit desire between men. And lurking beneath the surface of its joyful hedonism is a subtle critique about the dangers of anonymous sexual encounters. While the sexual activity is explicitly shown, Guiraudie does so to evoke the raw passion that exists between the characters of Franck and Michel, two outsiders who could easily have stepped out of the pages of a novel or play by Jean Genet. Like the thieves, prostitutes and murderers that populate the French author’s fiction, Franck and Michael also find divine love in their dangerous, masculine universe. Michel is every much the modern-day Querelle, an alpha male oozing sex and strength, while Franck is the besotted Captain Seblon, who’s desire to be with his murderous lover becomes greater than his fear of him.

To create the sense that his cruising ground is cut off from society (and reality) and enhance the outsider nature of the cruisers, Guiraudie never strays from the car park, the beach, the lake or the woods. This uncomplicated set-up allows the camera to linger over the landscape to capture the subtle changes in the light on the trees and water as day turns to night , while the use of wild sound enhances the naturalistic qualities. The end result is an astonishing palette that, when coupled with the positioning of the cruisers in the woods and on the beach, evokes the paintings of Renoir and the ascetic cinema of Bresson.

The thriller elements of the film play out in the second half, following the appearance of a naïve inspector investigating the murder. His is the voice of reason and, like the viewer, becomes an observer onto this private world. It makes for some comic moments, but also some telling ones, particularly about the empty lives these men are living: they have sex with each other, but never truly connect.

The film’s ending is a mystery, offering no resolution to Franck’s predicament. However, if you find yourself wanting some kind of closure, check out the alternate ending in the extras – it’s one that outsider Genet would highly approve.

Stranger By The Lake (2013)

EXTRA FEATURES
The Peccadillo Pictures Blu-ray and DVD release includes alternative ending (which I preferred), three deleted scenes, two short films by Alain Guiraudie from the 1990’s (Les héros sont immortels, Straight Ahead Until Morning), interviews with the director and the cast, a featurette on the poster, and a Cannes Film Festival special. Stranger by the Lake is also available to rent online (click here) and on BFI Player (click here).

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp5Mui-9YsQ%5D

(*) Please note that this movie is rated 18 and contains scenes of a sexually-explicit nature intended for mature audiences only.

Advertisements

About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on June 2, 2014, in BFI Player, Must-See, World Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: