Stranger By The Lake - Blu-ray Review

'Abstraction is fine but abstraction through forty minutes of explicit sex? I'm not sure that works.'

Alain Guiraudie's Stranger By The Lake has been the recipient of some fairly effusive praise since its UK release in February and certainly you can see some of the logic behind the film's recognition. Patient and structured, Guiraudie revisits his lakeside setting with the loyal devotion of a family hound, voyeuristically presenting his audience with the same angles and images of the fish bowl inhabitants on different days during the course of a week or so. There's a level of atmosphere, character and intrigue created here thanks to Guiraudie's setting and regimented visits; the lake is a noted cruising spot for homosexual men, so just why is the apparently heterosexual man Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) talks to visiting the lake every day? Just what is going on 'on the other side'? Is the large catfish reported to inhabit the lake real or a fable? The film has been compared to Hitchcock and whilst I certainly wouldn't go that far, there are moments when you can see where the comparison has originated from.

Occasionally things are heightened to the surreal. The arrival of Inspector Damroder (Jérôme Chappatte), for example, seems to take things one stage further. Guiraudie negates to show any other part of the police investigation Damroder is leading, instead simply showing him hawkishly stalking the beach area, pointing at various people he wants to quiz. It's almost like an investigation conducted in a parallel Universe, where the lake is everything and Damroder the Universe's sole law. On occasion, Stranger By The Lake feels as though it is about to become a Fantasy, arguably one of the only logical explanations for just why Franck stays to investigate when clearly he is in potential and significant danger.

At the other end of the scale, one of the lake's regular visitors seems to be there solely to fondle himself whilst looking at the other regulars engaged in sex acts, one of several instances (including an ejaculating penis and numerous other sexual encounters), which make Stranger By The Lake probably the most explicit film I have ever seen in terms of the sexual acts on show.

One argument goes that, firstly, if this is near-Fantasy then why shouldn't the inhabitants of the lake be preoccupied as such and, after all, even if it isn't, the film is set at a cruising spot: how explicitly should Guiraudie present it?

That argument though goes only so far when Guiraudie tries to tie his pornography to his high art. The constant sex - always outside, sometimes in a bush, sometimes with the odd pervet watching on - becomes near farce and Franck's obsession with Michel (Christophe Paou) borders on inconceivable lust, not in tune with the casual nature of the locale. After all of the sex, the end seems to go back to attempting something more, but by that time the low art has taken over and the high art can't recover with very much meaning. Abstraction is fine but abstraction through forty minutes of explicit sex? I'm not sure that works.

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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