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Death and Desire

There’s a ‘Stranger by the Lake’

April 1, 2014, 12:00 am

You’re at a cruising spot, say a lake. A person you’ve become borderline obsessed with is in the water with someone else. All of a sudden your crush drowns that someone else. What do you do? Report your crush to the police or, now that the other person is gone, use the homicide as an opportunity to hook up?

Such is the choice presented to Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) when he witnesses Michel (Christophe Paou) murder a lake-goer in Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake. This movie isn’t concerned with who did the killing—it happens in the open in the first 20 minutes—but with what takes place afterward.

Deladonchamps plays Franck as quiet and nervous, and as Franck finds himself questioned by police, other men at the lake and by a reclusive logger, Henri (Patrick D’Assumçao), he becomes downright twitchy but still is consumed by lust. Is Michel going to do away with him, too?

Guiraudie’s screenplay is completely detached from sentimentality and his direction is lean. There isn’t much more than desire and fear at work in Stranger by the Lake, and it doesn’t need much more. By the end, which has a few surprises, you’ll wonder just what to make of the whole thing, which seems like the point.

Written and directed by Alain Guiraudie
With Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou and Patrick D’Assumçao
The Screen
100 min.


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