Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013)
I want to call this French film a thriller, but it's not, exactly, and that's one of its most fascinating aspects. It has a thriller plot but unfolds like a character drama. It's about a young gay man named Franck who is spending his summer days at a lake where men come to bathe in the sun and have anonymous sexual encounters in the nearby woods. Franck meets two men: Henri, who has just lost his wife, and Michel, a very sexy man that Franck is immediately attracted to. For a time, it proceeds like a drama about life among French gay men, but it soon becomes evident that all is not what it seems with Michel. The thing is, Franck knows this, but he is completely under Michel's spell and unsure what to do about it. So, it's a thriller, and it's a thrilling movie, but it plays out slowly, without even a score, just observing things at the lake (it never leaves the location, which is both isolated and crowded), letting its landscape serve as a backdrop to an emotional drama about (mostly unsimulated) sex and the way powerful lust clouds our judgment. So nice to see a movie about gay people that doesn't demonize gay sex; it celebrates lust as a positive just as much as it shows how lust can make it hard to think rationally. A taut narrative and an excellent film. ****

BONE (1972)
Larry Cohen's first directorial feature is a bizarre, mostly fascinating movie. Yaphet Kotto (in one of his most interesting performances, which is saying something) stars as Bone, a Black man who just sort of appears in the backyard of a bickering white couple. He wants their money, but quickly finds that they're living well beyond their means and are backed up in debt, and the whole thing becomes a commentary on race, relationships, trauma, America's debt-based economy, society in general, and even the war in Vietnam. For the most part, Cohen is really able to walk the line between social satire and exploiting racial fears; he criticizes the couple for racially profiling Bone, but Bone is also a criminal and rather proud of it. The middle section is a tad uneven, but the first and third acts are very strong, and the film overall is surprisingly funny and darkly satiric, and still very relevant (especially in this economy). Just sort of showed up on TCM Underground a couple of weeks ago, but I'm glad to have seen it. ***1/2

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