Masters Of Cinema #63 - Simon Killer - Blu-ray Review

Simon Killer is not the first time that the Masters Of Cinema label has tried to play 'spot the classic' and release a brand new piece of cinema it no doubt hopes will one day be seen as something of a marvel. This particular film, by Antonio Campos, is an interesting bet given that, as Karina Longworth notes in the booklet's first essay, it was not particularly well received at Sundance, where it debuted.

If this is the future for Masters Of Cinema though, then I for one am all for it. Simon Killer feels like an auteur piece searching for an audience. Masters Of Cinema is a label in search of auteur films and auteur film fans. Former Sundance productions and Masters Of Cinema should be a future match made in heaven.

In this particular case though, Simon Killer feels like a film lacking in some of the elements needed to attain 'masters' status. The story of the titular Simon (Brady Corbet) masquerading through Paris as a variety of personas he finds convenient, Campos film has the aesthetics but is wanting in the story, which rambles on as Simon does, and often feels like it is getting to too few places of interest.

In fact, Simon Killer possibly hits the auteur nail on the head one too many times, even for a Masters Of Cinema audience. Campos seems more concerned with his ideas of perception and identity than he does with narrative interest and involvement. As every character - though mainly Simon - is unrolled before our eyes, we're left with little to identify with, to follow or adopt. This clearly forms part of Campos' point but he makes it at the expense of a narrative we want to follow and by destroying several of his leading characters, in some cases almost literally.

Presentationally though, Simon Killer is a wonderful depiction of an idealised Paris perceived by Simon and a real-life Paris experienced by us. As hazy reggae-inflected music pounds over the opening frames of a lovely city vista, we drop down to street level, the music quietens: Simon is listening to it on his headphones. The coolness is all an illusion, all in his head.

Flowing out from this is a heightened interest from the film in exploring the relationship between what we see and what our brain tells us. Campos practically bashes us over the head with that fact by actually having Simon claim his college major was in exactly that topic. Whether it was or not, like many of Simon's claims, is left open to debate.

The megalomaniacal, increasingly pathetic, Simon is shown soon afterwards hovering above a glass-ceiling miniature of the city, surveying a town he at times seems certain he will conquer. As a character deconstruction, Simon Killer has an assassin's eye. The title hints that all is not well with Simon but his perversions and inadequacies quickly come running out faster than his tour around Paris' more depraved areas.

This is where the film is at its most successful. Simon is not just himself but every 'innocent' tripper searching for a re-invention, a partner or something more sinister. Campos strips away our perceptions of the young traveller and forces our brains to re-engage with the fact that, actually, we do not know these people; their lives or their history. As narrative film, Simon Killer is flawed but as musing on dangerous youth, perception and our power to kid ourselves? Pin sharp.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Simon Killer is released in the UK on Monday 26th August 2013

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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