Tag Archives: French-ass French cinema

Pop!: Le Samourai

First, a pre-review: An inherent bias precedes the Pop! feature here, a bias toward American film. There are a variety of reasons for this. The first, honestly, is that part and parcel with the feature is the idea that American pop was a curious beast during this particular decade, and that the evolutions in pop filmmaking are perhaps the only meaningful ones found in that decade of American film. Drama was a wasteland, and the Europeans and the Japanese were doing wonders with experimental cinema during the decade. As for the Americans, absurdism and non-narrative surrealism, and the larger experimentation with film form and storytelling that permeated from those world trends, were diluted into popular genre cinema for playful mass entertainment (mass entertainment being what America does best, after all).
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Review: Stranger by the Lake

That Alain Guiraudie’s 2013 film Stranger by the Lake (French: L’Inconnu du lac) has been taken up by some as an erotic thriller in many circles is a most curious designation. Sure, there’s a surfeit of nudity in the film and the entirety of its emotional arc hinges on the relationship between sex and death (the defining characteristic of erotic thrills), but it is not the least bit erotic. Furthermore, it does not for a second pretend to be erotic (in contrast to many erotic thrillers are not erotic out of failure of execution even when they intend to be so).

In fact, every shot of the film, from the first angular image until the very conclusion, works as a study in detachment, so much so that the film borders on suffocation. It finds a certain unison between clinical examination of human distance and Hitchcock at his most malevolent and monomaniacal, but its dark heart is heavily filtered through a highly unmoving sense of frigid inhumanity. Now, I and many of my critical compatriots happen to think very highly of detached studies of inhumanity filtered through the eyes of a pitch-black thriller, but if you are looking for anything the least bit lively and humane, you will not find it here.

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