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02 February 2014

Stranger By the Lake (Film Review): "Finding Love in All the Wrong Places"

RATING 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Roghadal Saint-Michel (Toronto, Canada)

[Alert: Contain spoiler]  In a nondescript part of France, a lakeshore becomes a playground for homosexual encounters. The lead, Franck, routinely heads to the area and hopes to find a long-term relationship among the various men participating in anonymous sex.

A mysterious man, Michel, tall, dark and handsome (a very Castro Street circa '70s-look) catches Franck's attention and pursues him after befriending a new regular, Henri, who in turn is a brooding, recently divorced man.

This dramatic thriller is a commentary on a sliver of gay life. Scriptwriter and director Alain Guiraudie exposes anonymous sex, which is popularly misconstrued as more characteristic of gay lifestyle. The complex lifestyle is parlayed here in all its gayest glory—how cruising and sexual encounters are transacted. However, when nudity and sex scenes are repeatedly exercised on screen, the initial shock disappears and the film succeeds in desensitizing the viewer while it sucks you into a labyrinth of storytelling reminiscent of any Hitchcock projects; at the same time, posing a question that concerns any one attracted, obsessed, and in love.

In French with English subtitles.
Directed by Alain Guiraudie.
Starring Pierre Deladonchamps,
Christophe Paou, Patrick
Rationale for the use of non-free
media, click this
Seemingly, the mundane dialogues, the introduction of the inspector character, and the exclusively lake location are deceptively simple. The shots and the blocking are almost identical. Intelligently, director Guiraudie occasionally used the rustling of leaves, the howling sounds of the wind, and the one incident of turbidity on the perennially pristine emerald green water to hint on the impending conflict and suspense, which the film slowly reveals, and by the end, the viewer is on the edge of his seat.

Homosexual life has always been fascinating to people who do not practice it. Worse, it is appalling to those who are fundamentally judgmental. Therefore, when the auteur employs a winsome serial killer to prove a point on how far true love can be tested, the film deconstructs the myth of gay life using false stereotypes—that gay people are inherently loony. Nevertheless, just like everybody else, we all crave for intimacy; we all take chances and normalcy is all relative.


Roghadal Saint-Michel is our guest critic
from Toronto, Canada. His name
is suspiciously similar to our
editor's name but Mr. Saint-Michel is
a different person as proof of his TIFF
Alain Guiraudie won the Best Director award in the “Un Certain Regard” section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The film was also screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

The film also received eight Cesar awards nominations (the French equivalent of the Oscars), which include Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Newcomer, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Sound.

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