Stranger By the Lake has its fair share of male nudity, in fact, the two lead actors are naked in about 90% of their scenes. There’s ejaculation, fellatio and a lot of penises.
Now that I’ve warned you, we can move on. Franck, portrayed by a beautiful actor named Pierre de Ladonchamps, frequents a gay beach where he spends his days cruising for sex. He’ll sleep with anyone, anytime — trust me he has absolutely no standards.
But Franck has a particularly creepy fascination for the Adonis of the beach, Michel, played by Tom Selleck lookalike Christophe Paou. There’s a snag though, Michel has what appears to be a boyfriend. Franck discovers this when he witnesses Michel and his blonde boy toy having sex in the bushes.
One night Franck observes the couple swimming in the serene lake. To Franck’s astonishment, Michel drowns and kills his boyfriend. Does he call the police? No. Does he pursue a physical relationship with Michel soon after? Yes.
And that’s when the movie gets interesting. After their first public sexual encounter, Franck is convinced that he’s in love with Michel. It doesn’t seem to bother him so much that he witnessed the object of his affection murder another human being a day earlier.
The victim’s car, clothes and towel remain on the beach for days, before his body is discovered. None of the men who frequent the beach bothered to report this oddity. I kept asking myself what director Alain Guiraudie was trying to convey to the audience about this subculture of gay men.
Men cruise, as a gay man, I can tell you that it happens at an alarming frequency. They want to have sex, and they want to have it with as many people as possible. It’s telling in the film that when Michel and Franck do have sex, it is only after, as they’re walking to their cars, that they introduce themselves to each other.
The men on the beach are not interested in knowing souls, they’re interested in sex, the physical, that’s it. The detective who is brought in to investigate the murder brings this home to Franck in one compelling scene. He’s confused why none of the regulars seem upset that one of their own has been murdered. Do they not worry for their own safety? Is sex all that matters to them?
The answer to this question would be yes. These group of men are as vacant, vapid and vacuous as they seem. Franck finds comfort in a lonely, wise man named Henri, who recently broke up with his girlfriend. Henri offers Franck a relationship without the sex. He recognizes that Michel is not what he seems, and implores Franck to be careful.
Apparently there was an alternate ending filmed for the movie. The one chosen leaves it up to the audience to determine Franck’s fate.
Stranger By the Lake is a beautifully crafted movie. The performances, despite the lack of character development, are strong, the cinematography is stunning and the nudity, frequent.
My biggest criticism is the sex. To be honest, I’m a prude. I find it hard to watch sex scenes in movie theatres, especially when they are as graphic as the ones in this film.
A heterosexual couple left during the fellatio scene, and yes, you actually see it happening. I too was shocked.
I felt like I was one of the men at the beach, watching an illicit act, though gaining no pleasure because I’m not a voyeur. Similar to a naive family searching for a quiet picnic space, I soon realized that I made a wrong turn.
Well, such is life. It’s a film that will keep you thinking when it’s over. So go see it.