October 3, 2013

Controversial French Film STRANGER BY THE LAKE At The NY Film Fest

On Monday, I went to the New York Film Festival and saw a new French film which had debuted to much acclaim and controversy at Cannes earlier this year entitled STRANGER BY THE LAKE.  The film, set at an idyllic lake in the country which is a gay male cruising ground, is about desire and death. It's gorgeously shot and includes some controversial man-on-man action which goes about as all the way as I've seen in a conventional narrative film. But to call this a conventional narrative film is to miss the filmmakers' point as well. There is a dreamlike and somewhat surreal quality to the proceedings and the disturbing plot as it unfolds. It has been called a gay Hitchock film and likened to REAR WINDOW, two comparisons which are apt.

Anyway, it was great to see the film on the big screen at Alice Tully hall and even greater to get to hear director Alain Guiraudie talk about the film afterwards, via a translator, at a lengthy Q/A. He really made the translator work as he gave incredibly in-depth answers to simple questions, adding insight to his process as a filmmaker and what the film means to him.  This is one of those movies that, whether you love it or hate it, its images and scenes will likely stick with you long after the film is over. That's because what he is doing is pure cinema--visceral, visual storytelling that, while at times highly erotic, is also thought provoking in that it willfully breaks many conventions of standard filmmaking. Some of those breaks can be frustrating while others can be shocking.

Due to the film's explicit nature and lots of male nudity, it was a tough sell for distributors, especially in the notoriously puritanical US theatrical market. Naked women having sex = NC-17. Naked men having sex = don't even bother. So Strand Releasing, the distributor of my earlier films, acquired the title and will release it here unrated in early 2014--starting with a run at Lincoln Center in January. You will probably be able to see if online at some point but it's definitely worth seeking it out in a theatre.