Time for another entry to the Foreign Favourites series thanks to the very awesome Wendell at Dell on Movies. You should definitely pop over. Wendell has a perceptive and detailed way of writing and has plenty of fantastic features and blogathons. Here is his take on the French thriller/drama Stranger by the Lake.
Quick Synopsis: (IMDB)
Summertime. A cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake. Franck falls in love with Michel. An attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. Franck knows this, but wants to live out his passion anyway.
The problem with the setup is that we never really get the character study we’re prepped for. Conversations between Franck and Henri are only mildly interesting and not at all compelling. We get the idea that Franck has no clue what love is, or at least falls into it much too quickly. After bopping the same guy tow or three days in a row, he’s hopelessly head over heels while his newfound partner clearly isn’t However, there really is no examination of this. Instead of exploring our hero’s psyche, we’re suddenly off on a murder mystery as the body of one of the cruisers is discovered in the lake. A creepy detective starts coming around asking questions of everyone. He’s meant to appear to be a veteran cop with a cool seen-it-all demeanor, the type that can’t be phased. With him constantly popping up out of nowhere he’s only slightly less icky than that one dude who likes to stand next to couples while they’re in the act and fondle himself and has the nerve to get offended if someone asks him to go away. Yeah, that really happens. As for the detective, his presence fails to do the one thing it must, add mystery to the proceedings. We can gather who the killer is from the conversations that are had. The fact that there aren’t many characters of any significance doesn’t help. Our too-cool cop just highlights the lack of dramatic tension rather than drawing us into his investigation.
Since the budding friendship, Franck’s potential romance with another suitor, nor the murder mystery prove to be intriguing, all we’re left with is the sex. Yes, there’s plenty it. And it’s pretty graphic, including an actual ejaculation. There is so much sex that it takes over the movie. It’s arguable that this is merely porn with better production values. The easy comparison, of course, is another recent French movie with explicit sex featuring gay characters: Blue is the Warmest Color. The difference is that in Blue the sex is contained to a few scenes, extensive, but still enveloped within a narrative that is far more compelling than it is titillating. Here, the movie is half the length with at least twice the sex and a number of plot lines that aren’t really working with each other.
As if the lack of cooperation between the various narrative strands isn’t enough, another is thrown into the mix. During the last ten minutes or so, a slasher flick breaks out. It’s meant to be the grand finale of a sexy thriller. Instead, it feels like Jason Vorhees showed up on the set and confused things even further. While this is somewhat fun, it’s in a completely different vein than everything that happens to this point and takes me completely out of the movie to whatever extent I was actually still in it. It’s more of a spectacular crash and burn than a great finish. Somewhere in the wreckage there lies a great film, maybe two. One could have us delving into Franck’s mind, the other a suspenseful whodunit. As assembled, it’s a jumble of parts meant for different machines.