Camus, Antonioni & Patricia Highsmith meet New Queer Cinema in Alain Guiraudie’s David Hockney Still-Life of a thriller. That sounds a mouthful, a real inedible mash-up, but, if anything, the film proves too refined, as deliberately digested as cud in a cow’s four-stage tummy. Set in the south of France by an isolated lake that serves as a gay cruising zone, writer/director Guiraudie uses repetitive action & shots to chart the meetings, hook-ups, and then the reaction (or lack thereof) to an almost casual murder seen by one of the cruisers while hidden in the surrounding wood. But while we in the audience immediately process the information, the witness hangs in a sort of voyeuristic limbo, starting a passionate, morally unsettling (and probably dangerous) affair with the killer. The sex is explicit*, the pacing hypnotic and the implications vague & unnerving. And, happily, all pretentious blather saved for the disc’s (easily avoided) accompanying director’s interview. The film comes off as a series of unlikely events & friendships, including a strikingly original Mutt & Jeff relationship between the lake's odd-man-out straight guy & the witness. Haunting stuff.
DOUBLE-BILL: A Highsmith classic like STRANGER’S ON A TRAIN/’51 may be loaded with gay subtext, but this story matches up more closely with Luchino Visconti/Marcello Mastroianni’s much underrated version of Camus’ THE STRANGER/’67. Alas, though it’s shown up on YOUTUBE, the film's Giuseppe Rotunno cinematography needs the Big Screen (those Matisse blues!) to make its mark.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Ah, for the days when coupling actors only had to worry about the freshness of their partner’s breath.