Monday, October 7, 2013
A non-review of Stranger by the Lake (2013) New York Film Festival 2013
Of interest to me has been the talk the film generated. I've been hearing all sorts of chatter about the film starting from the point where several minutes were screened between two other films during the early press screenings. A bunch of us were standing in the theater talking between films. As they normally do they were checking prints and such of films that were screening later in the day or the next day, when the opening of Stranger came on and we began trying to guess what the film was before the credits came up. As we saw a couple of guys in mid-act there was a noticeable reaction as most of us turned away at the unexpected sight (How do you react to stumbling upon two people getting it on when you're with polite company?).
A couple of days later, while waiting for entry into that days films I was talking to one of my fellow writers who asked if I had seen the film. I said I hadn't, and asked how it was.
"Very close to porno", She replied
"But was it any good?" I asked
"I'm not sure." she thought for a moment and replied "Lots of cute guys. But that's it."
"Is it worth seeing?"
Later in the day I listened to a couple of other writers hashing the film out. Did the film add up to much? They didn't seem to think so, finding it it kind of the film noirish story of being in love with the wrong person but with male nudity and not much else.
Over the next week or so I caught several other conversations where people were trying to figure out what there was to the film other than the sex.
Its a question that I'm battling with myself. Is there anything to this that we've not seen before? I don't know. To be honest I have to be suspicious of any film where the one thing you talk about is the sex. If you walk out of a film talking about the sex (something I've heard about the Cannes winner Blue is the Warmest Color which screens Friday) then something is really wrong with the drama. Are you making a drama or are you making porno for people who won't rent/go to pornos?
For me films should be about the drama and the characters first and foremost. I should be able to walk out the film and not talk about the special effects, or the music or in this case the sex, I should just talk about the film as a whole. At the same time a really good film should have you walking out of it going this is a good film, full stop, and not a good action film or a good thriller or a good whatever.
In the case of Strangers I know you can argue that the sex is part of the obsessional nature of the characters, and you would be right, but at the same time it shouldn't be the first or only thing thing you mention, especially in a film that goes to great lengths to try and be an examination of what an obsessed person will do to get their hearts desire.
I need to mention that What Now? Remind Me, also screening at the festival, has graphic sex in it but where the sex in Strangers was mentioned in the Festival material, the sex in What Now wasn't. I'm guessing because that film isn't just about the sex.
Is Stranger by the Lake a good film? Possibly, but at the same time without the sex it's probably not something you'd ever notice.