20/02/2014

Stranger by the Lake

While Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac hogs the limelight thanks to many festival appearances and Shia LaBeouf's seemingly unstoppable fuckery parade, here comes Alain Guiraudie's Queer Palm-winning thriller that shows exactly how unoriginal Trier's bonkfest is. I'm not going to lie to you: there are an awful lot of knobs on display in Stranger by the Lake. Almost as many as those popping up and saying hello in Nymphomaniac, but while they may match in the amount of swinging genitals on display the French drama comes up trumps when it comes to humour and genuine frights.

It's summertime in France and Franck (Pierre de Ladonchamps) begins frequenting a secluded lake for no-strings sex and to top up his tan. While he begins a friendship with the entirely straight Henri (he just likes the view), he is soon seduced by the sexy and very moustachioed Michel (Tom Selleck's long-lost son, Christophe Paou). Typically things aren't as they seem and after falling head over heels for him, Franck discovers Michel is also a murderer and find himself equally attracted and terrified by his new lover.

The sun-drenched setting aside, Stranger by the Lake resembles an old Hollywood thriller after the pivotal scene and is tense and frightening even when peppered with funny moments. The Night of the Hunter and Hitchcock's back catalogue are both clear influences, but Guiraudie has created a beguiling and brilliant film that, much like Michel on his victims, sneaks up on you. It's sure to be one of the best films of the year so do seek it out, even if your local multiplex won't be showing it.