Stranger By the Lake (L'inconnu du
goes to a lake on a nearly daily basis. He sees someone he is
attracted to, and watches from afar as his crush is hanging out and having
fun with someone else. Late one night he watches the two get into a
fight in the middle of the lake. His crush comes out, but he loses
track of the other guy. Did the guy really disappear underwater and
not resurface? Soon afterwards, the crush starts talking to the him.
Even though the guy is concerned that he may have witnessed a murder, he
can't help but be drawn into a passionate affair. Then when the
original lover's body is found drowned, suspicion falls upon the man.
But he can't tell what he has seen without incriminating the person for whom
he has fallen.
sounds like a pretty standard thriller formula. The only thing
different is that
all of these people are men and the setting is a popular French cruising
spot, where guys sunbathe and then go into the reeds for gay hookups.
Stranger By the Lake is far from being a standard thriller.
warning for the squeamish or the homophobic: some of the homosexual sex acts
on screen are rather explicit, including near-constant male nudity, some
shots of fellatio and full-on ejaculation. Writer/director Alain
Guiraudie is trying to portray this particular world, and he is not going to
shy away from the details of the place. Either take it as it really
is, or stay out.
again, most people who had those concerns would probably never go to a movie
in which there is a painting of two men kissing passionately on the movie
poster. So forewarned is forearmed.
thing is, this film is actually not so much about homosexuality. As
illustrated above, these lovers could have been a man and a woman and the
basic storyline would have worked just about the same. Yet it would
have been a less interesting film because it is not nearly as unique a
setting. The homosexual subculture almost works as a seasoning in the
meal, but it is not the full dish.
a long shot.
Stranger By the Lake takes place completely in the area – every single
scene takes place either at the lake, the beach, the nearby woods or the
parking area. The era is also indeterminate – I'd guess the 80s or
90s, but that is a complete conjecture due to clothes, hair and lack of cell
phones. Also, while not all of these guys are overly concerned about
it, they do know about condoms and AIDS.
timelessness is also undoubtedly planned. This could be anytime and
any place (the lake and area are also quite indeterminate, someplace
somewhere in France). And even anyone. Part of the point of the
place is that names and backgrounds are vague, almost no one knows another
as much as a person's last name, much less how to contact them.
of course gets in the way when an investigation is going on. A local
inspector (Jérôme Chappatte) is shocked to find how little everyone knows
about each other, and how a person can just disappear, his towel and
sneakers and car sitting where they were left for days, and no one would
even notice he is gone.
Deladonchamps plays Franck, a generically attractive gay man in his early
30s who – unlike most of the guys there – is visiting the lake as much for
the swimming and natural rustic charm as the idea of meeting other men.
He quickly platonically befriends Henri (Patrick d'Assumçao), a guy who sits
by himself on a hill and just watches nature.
is a husky 40-some recent divorcé, who is even less into cruising than
Franck. In fact, he seems burned out on sex completely, and any bi
tendencies that he may have once had seem mostly behind him. In fact,
he eventually admits being interested in Franck, but not so much in a sexual
way as just someone else to go to a bar with and hang out with. Franck
feels similarly about Henri, he actually enjoys the older man's company
greatly, but friendship takes second place to passion in Franck's life.
passion comes in the form of Michel (Christophe Paou), the local hunk with
short shorts, ripped abs and a porn star mustache who is the center of much
of the attention at the lake. The first time Franck tries to meet
Michel, he is cock-blocked by Michel's latest jealous, effeminate fling.
Hours later as the sun is going down, Franck notices the two having their
fight in the lake.
next day the fling is gone and Michel is making his move on Franck.
But did Franck really see what he thought he saw? What's a guy to do?
Intellectually it's an easy answer, but emotionally not as much.
Particularly since it turns out that Michel is a mind-blowing lover.
But then again, is the passion due to the partner or the danger of the
Stranger By the Lake doesn't offer any simple answers or make any
judgments. It just posits a human dilemma and places it in a very
specific setting. However, for all the movie's flirtation with
societal taboos, the movie works mostly because it is a very
well-constructed and complex psychological thriller.
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All rights reserved. Posted: March 14, 2014.