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Stranger By the Lake

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday May 13, 2014
Stranger By the Lake

Writer-director Alain Guiraudie, in an interview included as the one and only special feature of the DVD release of his film "Stranger by the Lake," talks about his wish to make a film about gays and gay life that's not restricted to the interior spaces of apartments and offices. Instead, Guiraudie set this nifty (and, often, naked) thriller in and around a lake in the South of France, where gay men come to swim, sunbathe nude, and trawl the woods for some erotic fun.

The film picks up with the first visit to the lake in some time by handsome young Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), who quickly strikes up a platonic friendship with glum, heavyset Henri (d'Assumçao), a mostly-straight guy who plays gay on occasion just to mix things up. The friendship these two develop is paralleled and offset by the wild sexual connection that Franck forges with a handsome -- but unsettling -- man named Michel (Christophe Paou).

When Michel's playmate, a demanding fellow named Ramière (François Labarthe) goes missing and then turns up dead in the water, there's a frisson around the lake -- not least because a police inspector (Jérôme Chappatte) has started sniffing around, making the sunbathers and playmates in the bushes uneasy. But
Franck has more reason than anyone to feel worry and fear: He actually saw Franck drown the dead man. The question of what he does about it (or, better put, doesn't do about it) lends this sexy, atmospheric film a charge that carries it into territory that will tingle the spine, along with other erogenous zones.

The interview with Guiraudie doesn't delve into it (maybe because this is a French movie), but this is a film that freely mixes sometimes-graphic erotica into its broth of anxiety and suspense. There's also quite a lot of humor, much of it centering around the politics of the nude beach and attendant cruising scene. Straight audiences may find this film impenetrable or off-putting; gay viewers will appreciate its many levels.

The review copy was the DVD release, but hold out for the Blu-ray: The water is fine (and so are some of the men), and the Blu-ray offers a plethora of extras you might not want to miss, including two of Guiraudie's short films, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending.

"Stranger by the Lake"
DVD and Blu-ray ($32.99)

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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