Alain Guiraudie's film is a challenging but memorable experience, and bold in more than one sense. There is the graphic sexual content, which seems to push the boundaries of what can be shown in commercial cinema, but more shocking than this is its Genet-like exploration of a character who seems drawn to danger and gets caught up with someone to whom he feels a very strong attraction to in spite of the very real risk this represents. Commercially, it is also bold in that it has no music from the first frame to the last; in fact there are no opening credits, even. Guiraudie shows the idyllic quality of the lakeside setting in hot weather, with the light varying at different times and acting as a clock in the film; in fact it is the viewer who becomes a sort of sundial - which is quite important in the thriller-like context that is set up. This beauty is set against the world of gay cruising and the electric current of desire, which different characters deal with in different ways - it is like a microcosm of life but shot through this narrow prism, as we never leave the lakeside or surrounding woods, nor are there any female characters. Aside from the main character, Franck, and the object of his obsession, Michel, there is a third main character, Henri, who seems to stand aside from it all, enigmatic, kindly (you sense), and hard to fathom. It is he who gives the film its most memorable aspect, perhaps. Above all, it is a highly interesting piece of filmmaking, very original (although Guiraudie has mined a similar theme in his other film Ce Vieux Reve Qui Bouge, 2001). It is a bit like Chabrol's Le Boucher in its rural setting, theme of a serial killer and slow pacing, crossed perhaps with Cruising, set in a concrete world that is poles apart. There is also something of Genet's moral compass, as said above, and a nod towards another French film from the 80s, Claire Devers Noir et Blanc, about a sado-masochistic relationship, that has never resurfaced on DVD. As happens to a key figure in this film near the beginning ...
on 28 December 2013
Ah, sweet revenge! This movie is payback to every gay man who ever had to sit (and who hasn't?) through 20 minutes of graphic straight sex for every 2 minutes of chaste gay sex in an American movie. There's not a heaving breast anywhere!
It's an all-male cast, and they're nearly always naked - REALLY naked, not the coy, fig-leaf male nakedness 99% of American movies (even the gay movies) dole out as if it were toxic (in contrast to female nakedness, which they shove in our faces all day long). The only problem here is the shaved pubic hair, which is a HUGE turn-off.
I thought the creepy, shaved-pubes look was restricted to gay-for-pay porn stars and West Hollywood gym bunnies, so it makes me really sad to see it even in rural France where this movie is set. The creepy hairless epidemic must be sweeping the whole civilized world. They say circumcision is a crime and then they shave off the pubes! It's crazy.
ANYWAY, there's lots of dick, and lots of sex in this movie, and it's not always simulated. Some will call this porn, but it's not. Some will call it a thriller, but anybody expecting white knuckles will be badly disappointed.
There's a murderer, but there are no big shocks, no frantic chases, nothing out of Hollywood's bag of stock thriller tricks. The movie is as languid and easy as the warm summer days it depicts (but sometimes it does get a little scary in the woods after dark!)
There are no sets, no special effects, and not one note of music. The whole movie takes place outdoors, in and around a beautiful man-made lake (lac de Sainte-Croix) in the foothills of the Alps, on a remote beach where gay guys go to swim, sun their shaved pubes and cruise the wildlife.
Besides all the sex, there's a nice friendship between the main character and an oddball straight man who hangs out there for his own, totally harmless reasons. And there's some really funny dialog about giant catfish that may or may not live in the lake.
Pierre Deladonchamps is fantastic as Franck, the main character, as is Patrick d'Assumçao as Henri the straight guy. Christophe Paou is good as the subtly sinister murderer Michel - and he is identified early, so I'm not spoiling the story for anybody who hates spoilers.
I think I can safely say this is unlike any movie anybody has ever seen before. I liked it a lot.
on 15 June 2014
STRANGER BY THE LAKE  [Blu-ray] Utterly Gripping and Absorbing . . . One of the Year’s Best! Beautiful, Sinister, Frightening, Erotic!
Summer time. A cruising spot for gay men seeking nameless sexual encounters is tucked away on the shores of a picturesque secluded lake in rural France. Franck is an attractive young male who falls in love with Michel, a striking, extremely potent but lethally dangerous man. Franck has witnessed this first hand, but his desire for Michel knows no bounds, this is a relationship he must have - at any cost.
‘STRANGER BY THE LAKE’ is a tense thriller set against the secluded back drop of, what becomes inevitably, the most dangerous lake in France.
A provocative and accomplished effort by France's bad boy auteur, ‘STRANGER BY THE LAKE’ is Alain Guiraudie's steamy mix of the comic and the tragic, winning Best Director for Un Certain Regard in addition to the Queer Palm at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
FILM FACT: Awards: 2013 Cannes Film Festival: Won: Best Director for Alain Guiraudie. 2014 39th César Awards the film was nominated for eight César Awards and with Pierre Deladonchamps winning the award for Most Promising Actor. The film was filmed using body doubles. Alain Guiraudie and the actors came to the decision that they would be uncomfortable filming the scenes themselves. The film was shot at the Lake of Sainte-Croix in Provence, France in September 2012.
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d'Assumçao, Jérôme Chappatte, Mathieu Vervisch, Gilbert Traina, Emmanuel Daumas, Sébastien Badachaoui, Gilles Guérin, François-Renaud Labarthe, Claude Bellelle, Slawomir Cieminski, Jean-Marie Crémier, Bernard Delavaux, Bernard German, Jean-Michel Giordano, Lucien Lerda, Patrick Marconi, Serge Morgadinho, Eric Piccolotto, Corentin Plas, Renaud Rifflart, Thomas Salles, Nicolas Guimbard, Joël Landaraud and Alain Guiraudie (uncredited)
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Producers: Benoît Quainon, Gilles Sitbon, Olivier Père and Sylvie Pialat
Screenplay: Alain Guiraudie
Cinematographer: Claire Mathon
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: French: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Running Time: 100 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Peccadillo Pictures
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: In ‘STRANGER BY THE LAKE [French: L'Inconnu Du Lac], a suspense thriller from the French director Alain Guiraudie, we get the measure of the lake itself soon enough. It's a wide, chalky basin somewhere in the south of France, with water as hot and blue as a June sky. It's also a gay pick-up spot, where men sunbathe, swim and chat, before disappearing into the surrounding scrub.
This mesmerising feature from French writer-director Alain Guiraudie is a mix of Hitchcockian potboiler and queer-culture study. Our lead is buff Franck [Pierre Deladonchamps], who struts with confidence around the lake that is the film's only location. Franck becomes fast friends with lonely, obese Henri [Patrick d'Assumçao], but his libido is more tickled by '70s-porn-moustache-sporting Michel [Christophe Paou]. Guiraudie has a keen eye for queer conduct: he spends most of the first half hour acclimating us to this Eden where gay men lie around nude and sneak off into the woods for sex, before offering a deeply unsettling exploration of infatuation.
This provocative setting is ideal for Alain Guiraudie's story, which is an exploration of fear and longing, and the ways in which those two seemingly opposing forces often work in deadly unison. The men here are essentially strangers, but at the same time they're hair-raisingly intimate, and their encounters are shown in explicit detail. The BBFC report warns of "strong, real sex" and we aren't disappointed, on either count. The film leans a bit heavily on long takes, but there's a purpose to Alain Guiraudie's rigorous perspective. He's out to unearth the powerful, often terrifying emotions which underlay all explicit acts, sexual or not.
One of the regulars is Franck [Pierre Deladonchamps], a limber youngster, who notes one morning the arrival of a new man, Michel [Christophe Paou], who has a cruel smile, a thick moustache, and the physique of an Olympic swimmer. Franck is intrigued, and lingers in the bushes that evening to spy on him playing in the water with a third man who appears to be a romantic partner. As Franck comes to learn, death and love make consummate bedfellows.
What happens next could be considered a plot-spoiler, so I won't detail it here, although Alain Guiraudie captures it in an unbroken, indelible four-minute shot, where the action moves from the far distance to the foreground while the camera looks on with a paralysed steadiness worthy of Hitchcock.
Franck's response to what he sees is complex: from an earlier conversation about contraception, we already know that sex and risk are closely aligned in his psyche. Two days later, he strikes up a relationship with Michel. The day after that, a police inspector comes to ask questions about what may or may not have happened that night, and the lake's status as a set-apart place, with its own opaque codes of maleness, comes under threat.
Alain Guiraudie's film is acutely brilliant on the funny, scary machinery of desire, and how easily humans can get caught up in its cogwheels. There are no female characters and the camera never leaves the lakeside, but despite the picture's resolute closed-offness, the gist is universal. It's categorically not for the faint-hearted, but the good ones never are.
Blu-ray Video Quality – With its 1080p brilliant encoded transfer, ‘STRANGER BY THE LAKE’ is one of the best-looking discs to come from Peccadillo Pictures. While most of this likely has to do with the fact the the film premiered in 2013, it shouldn't take anything away from how strikingly detailed and consistent the image actually is. Much of the film takes place during bright summer days, and the image captures the essence of the setting with tremendous amounts of detail. One can practically count the rocks on the beach, if they were so inclined. Additionally, facial features and other textures are all on display and though clothing is something of a rarity for this film. Colours are consistently vivid, and manage to capture the bright lushness of the lake's surrounding woods. Contrast remains incredibly high throughout the film producing full-bodied black levels and whites that never look overblown. Certain night scenes do tend to take on an overwhelming inkiness, but that seems to be deliberate on behalf of the filmmaker, as it adds a great deal to the tension of the situation. All in all, this is a fantastic looking disc that rarely has a misstep of any kind. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also quite good. The mix isn't tasked with doing much other than making sure the dialogue is clean and easily heard which it does with great ease here. The sound is primarily loaded through the front, as dialogue spills through the centre channel while various ambient effects are filtered through the front and rear channels as needed. There's little that is obvious about the mix, so sounds are generally floating between channels, generating an effortless immersive experience that highlights the sounds of the lake, the breeze blowing through the tall grass, and the voices of the eternally present others floating around the background. This is a quiet film that makes pointed use of every bit of dialogue and sound effect, so that they are distinct and purposeful. It's not going to be used as reference for anyone's next demo, but it certainly goes above and beyond in terms of setting the tone of a wonderful film.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Interview with Alain Guiraudie [Director]  [1080p] [16:32] Alain Guiraudie is recorded at the 2013 Melbourne Film Festival. The director is extremely prepared to chat up "Stranger by the Lake," delving into a sophisticated explanation of his moviemaking approach, with emphasis on theory, form, and inspiration. While more textured anecdotes are more inviting. Alain Guiraudie displays a rich understanding of his work, sharing his creative intent with authority in this passionate conversation that's punctuated with clips from the feature. French Language with English Subtitles.
Special Feature: Interview with Christophe Paou and Pierre Deladonchamps  [1080p] [30:15] Here we get a chance to get an in-depth intimate interview with the two main character actors. We get to hear the actors explaining all aspect of the film and how they went about creating their characters. What was so refreshing is how very frank they were when it came to the sex scenes and held nothing back. What was also really nice and surprising is that they wanted to only speak in English, which is sometimes very rare, but of course they both have very heavy French accents, which were really nice, but most surprising of all, is that both actors are completely straight.
Special Feature: The Cannes Première  [1080p] [16:33] this is a short documentary, showing all aspects of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival event. You get short interviews with different people involved with the film, plus small extracts from the film, with people explaining in depth of what is happening in that particular part of the film. The main part of this short documentary is with everyone on the Cannes Stage and the Director making short speeches, as well as seeing the audience appreciating all the people involved with the film who attended the première. French Language with English Subtitles.
Special Feature: Creating The Poster: Commentary by Roy Genty [Artistic Director]  [1080p] [6:42] Here we get to hear Roy Genty explain how he went about designing the different Film Posters, and how he eventually came to designing the actual poster advertising the film. French Language with English Subtitles.
Special Feature: Les Heros Sont Imortels [Heroes Never Die] [13:28] is a 1990 short film from Director Alain Guiraudie concerning the evening conversation shared between two men as they wait patiently in a town square. French Language with English Subtitles.
Special Feature: Tout Droit Jusqu'au Matin [Straight Ahead Until Morning] [10:14] is a 1994 short film from Director Alain Guiraudie, this time exploring on the philosophical inner monologue of a man touring a city at night. French Language with English Subtitles.
Special Feature: 3 Deleted Scenes  [1080p] [4:19] here we get three additional moments focusing on Franck's adventures around the lake, interacting with Henri and being chased away by other men in the area. The final scene is perhaps most important, spotlighting a discussion of protected sex between Franck and a more attentive conquest that should've remained in the picture. French Language. English Subtitles.
Special Feature: Alternative Ending  [1080p] [9:20] presents two takes that essentially extend the theatrical ending to a more defined resolution, while still preserving needed ambiguity. This is only a subtle change, but it does alter the tone of the climax, gifting the feature a more sombre quality. French Language with English Subtitles.
Special Feature: BFI London Film Festival Gala Q&A  [1080p] [14:14] Here we get to see the 3 main actors and the Director [speaking only in French]. You also have 2 other people on the stage speaking in English. One of them was a woman who had to translate into English what the Director was explaining, especially from specific questions from the audience, which unfortunately you can't quite hear what they are saying.
Trailers: Peccadillo Pictures promotes some of their other Blu-ray releases, which includes: ‘Interior Leather Bar;’ ‘Our Children;’ ‘I Am Devine’ [Infamous American Drag Artist]; ‘North Sea Texas;’ ‘Weekend;’ ‘You and The Night;’ ‘Free Fall;’ ‘In the Name Of’ and ‘Boys on Film 11.’ For more details, check out the Peccadillo Pictures web site.
Finally, although certain elements of ‘STRANGER BY THE LAKE’ suggest it might fit into the subgenre of homoerotic. As to the film itself, is more concerned with the idea of a subgenre itself, or, in this case a small microcosm like the populated by the men gathering at the lake for bouts of passionate, anonymous sex. For the film to also feature a compelling thriller aspect seems to suggest that Alain Guiraudie is also interested in examining what constitutes desire, especially when it becomes unquenchable, reckless, and even illogical. This is very captivating film, that features terrific picture, very good sound, and a host of informative extras that gives a glimpse into the mind of the director. This is a definite high octane tour-de-force gay film, that was so amazingly good, which has a refreshing no holds barred action, and whose characters are fascinating to watch and get into their characters and is definitely for repeat view and I am so pleased to add this to my ever extensive Blu-ray Collection and is also a must buy, if you want to see something really different and keeps you guessing right to the very end, then this is the Blu-ray disc for you. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom