Sundance Review: Stranger by the Lake


Director:Alain Guiraudie

Cast:Pierre Deladonchamps, Christphe Paou, Patrick d'Assumcao

Running Time:101 Minutes


Set amidst a lone location and featuring a limited number of characters, Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake is an erotic mystery that leaves little to the imagination.  An all-male cast allows the film to integrate crime with the anonymity of "cruising" but will leave many viewers turned off by its determination to scream "porn" louder than any degree of suspense.

Pierre Deladonchamps and Christphe Paou give decent enough performances, embodying their surface characters with mere satisfaction.  But their lackluster dialogue prevents them from making something of their roles, instead resorting to the mundane, repetitive life that many work to escape.  And while both integrate themselves within the scene, neither demand your attention as they fail to ignite and give you anything worth caring about.

The mystery itself plays a backseat to the unavoidable porn that unfolds before our very eyes.  I try to credit the shock and awe of everything to culture differences as the film was shot in France where witnessing a man ejaculate on camera after a quick hand job  isn't as out of sorts as it is in the States.  But even the sex and nudity aside, the film isn't good as it fails to materialize and offer up anything remotely unique or original--other than giving us a terrifying example of blind love.

The crime, preformed almost in passing, lacked any real suspense or unnerving moment as our lead protagonist, Frank, watches from afar.  The next day Frank introduces himself to Michael, the killer.  Sex follows, and the entire incident is practically wiped under the rug, long forgotten.  It isn't until an investigator shows up thirty minutes later and taps the two men as his leading suspects that we are reminded about the secondary plot point.

The film progresses much like a French film, laden in characterization and story development, there are simply no extremes used to capture your attention.  While I appreciate the authentic approach, Stranger by the Lake failed to give us a story or characters to be interested in.  Gay men cruising a lake with a murder occurring late one night doesn't constitute a near two hour feature film.  Hell, it hardly constitutes a mention at all.  But Alain Guiraudie uses it to craft an extensive gay porn film.  Better acting wouldn't have helped the overall picture, but a little bit of direction would have taken the focus off of the sex and placed it where it belonged, the murder.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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