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MURDER, SEX AND SUSPENSE
on March 7, 2014
What do you do when you witness a murder being committed but become sexually attracted to the killer? This is the dilemma that faces Franck when, in the twilight hours at a gay cruising spot, he watches stunned and fascinated as Michel drowns his lover. Alain Guiraudie's breakthrough movie is a mini-classic that slowly hooks you in with its gradual build up of suspense until its dramatic, inconclusive but brilliant ending. You could say there is not a lot we learn of the protagonists but that's very much in keeping with the mysterious men who spend their days in the woods and the lake searching for anonymous sexual encounters. This could be the main reason for Franck's desire for the homicidal Michel, the sexual fear of danger and the unknown. Henri, a portly "straight" man who sits by himself until befriended by Franck, is the only character who seems to have another life although even that could be misleading. I think the secret of the film's intrigue is the fact it never leaves the lake. We watch as the same cars arrive each day, park in the same spots, their inhabitants take up their usual locations, persist in keeping some sort of etiquette whether by the water or cruising in the woods. People who break the rules are frowned upon. It's a little world inside another little world. Seeing a scattering of mostly naked gay men spending their days at the lake is not unlike seeing the same men spending an afternoon at the golf course. These are male rituals and it all appears rather innocuous until the expected "action" occurs in the woods surrounding the lake, leading to more male rituals. Be warned there are two or three very explicit sex scenes that could have been lifted from a gay porn flick.
As mentioned before this is one of those films that slowly creeps up on you and the ending is electric. In many ways it reminded me, in a strange way, of Antonioni's Blow-Up, the way it all unravels, perhaps with the added touch of a Fassbinder influence. The acting by Pierre Deladonchamps as Franck, Christophe Paou as Michel (looking like a cross between Mark Spitz and a Falcon porn star of the 70s) and Patrick d'Assumcao as the lonely Henri is exemplary for this type of film. Director Guiraudie even appears as one of the lakeside participants. A fine film that deserves more than one viewing to fully appreciate its excellence.