Film Reviews: Stranger by the Lake, 24 Exposures, The Pretty Ones, Somewhere Slow
Frontiers Staff

Stranger by the Lake
Starring Pierre Deladonchamps, Patrick d’Assumçao, Christophe Paou

The mesmerizing erotic thriller Stranger by the Lake depicts a love triangle that develops at a cruising area in France. Franck (Deladonchamps) befriends Henri (d’Assumçao), but he lusts after Michel (Paou). Even though Franck spies Michel drowning the latter’s boyfriend, Ramière (François-Renaud Labarthe), he can’t resist coupling up with the murdering hunk. However, he is frustrated that their relationship is limited to their lakeside assignations. Curiously, both men lie to Inspector Damroder (Jérômre Chappatte), who is investigating Ramière’s death. This seductive film, which is shot in a series of hypnotic, repetitive sequences, plays with issues of attraction and voyeurism, trust and truth as the characters strip down on the beach, swim naked in the lake and stroke and sometimes suck each other off in the woods. Writer/director Alain Guiraudie plays extremely well with various points of view and issues of identity. When the film merges Franck’s vision of the murder with the narrative in one continuous sequence, it is dazzling. Stranger by the Lake is incredibly atmospheric and uninhibited. Viewers will be breathing heavy during the erotic trysts and in the final reel when things get quite ominous and violent. For arthouse and hothouse loves, Stranger by the Lake is not to be missed. —Gary M. Kramer

24 Exposures
Starring Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Caroline White

Billy (Wingard) is a self-described “classy personal fetish photographer,” and Michael (Barrett) is a depressed cop. These two men meet when Michael investigates the death of a model that once posed for Billy. This wafer-thin plot provides writer/director/editor Joe Swanberg opportunities to create some highly stylized tableaus and set pieces. This meta-movie plays with the sexy thriller genre, most effectively with aural and musical cues, less so with the copious female nudity and obligatory lesbian/threesome scenes. That said, one fetish shoot involving a topless woman with (fake) slit wrists in a bathtub of blood is as artful as an image of a woman face down on railroad tracks. If the visuals are striking, the emotions are too cool. Michael putting a gun in his mouth fails to register his intense despair, and scenes of Rebecca’s (Helen Rogers) boyfriend Greg (Mike Brune) getting insanely jealous of her friendship with Billy seems forced. The overlapping themes of truth, illusion, secrets and lies are at the heart of 24 Exposures, but they are only raised, not fully explored. Unfortunately, Swanberg lets the intriguing pictures compensate for some of the more didactic moments when characters actually explain what has happened. —Gary M. Kramer

The Pretty One
Starring Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston

The Pretty One stars Zoe Kazan—the female equivalent of a man-child—in a story of identical twins “separated at death.” Laurel (Kazan) is the shy one who lives at home and cares for her widowed father (John Carroll Lynch). She paints copies of famous art in one of writer/director Jenée LaMarque’s many heavy-handed “double” motifs. Living in the shadow of pretty twin Audrey (also Kazan), Laurel assumes her sister’s identity after Audrey dies in a car accident. If a duplicitous twin suffering from post-traumatic amnesia sounds like The Pretty One is mining soap opera storylines, this lousy film fails to be that juicy. Instead, the precious Laurel starts becoming empowered as Audrey. She ends her affair with her sister’s married boyfriend, Charles (Livingston), and falls in love with her twin’s affable neighbor, Basel (Johnson), who shares her duplex house. While friends think Audrey “seems different” or “isn’t herself,” viewers are forced to wait for her to confess the truth. The resulting drama only confirms that Laurel-as-Audrey’s “new” life is just as boring as Laurel-as-Laurel’s old one. Kazan’s performance in the dual role is particularly uninspired, and she has little chemistry with either of her suitors. The Pretty One is really pretty lame. —Gary M. Kramer

Somewhere Slow
Starring Jessalyn Gilsig, Graham Patrick Martin, Wallace Langham

Somewhere Slow is a slight but engaging character study about Anna (Gilsig, of Glee), a vulnerable and insecure woman experiencing a midlife crisis. Anna puts on literal and figurative masks—she wears heavy makeup to cover her bad skin and acts overly polite to almost everyone she encounters. On a particularly bad day, Anna finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and makes an impulsive decision to flee from a crime scene. During her “escape” she meets Danny (Martin), a young man who steals a car and takes Anna to visit Paul (Langham), a gay man who once took nude photos of Danny. After a scuffle, however, the fugitive couple hits the road and holes up in Anna’s family’s former cottage, where they lower their defenses. Somewhere Slow keeps the tension percolating as Anna and Danny’s relationship unfolds, even if viewers may be frustrated by the characters’ foolish behavior and bad decisions. Nevertheless, writer/director Jeremy O’Keefe has created a gentle, low-budget film about self-discovery, even if it cops out on occasion. Gilsig gives an especially nuanced performance. Her transformation is credible, even if her actions sometimes are not. But Martin steals the film as the charming, reckless and gay-for-pay Danny. —Gary M. Kramer

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