Summertime. A cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake. Franck falls in love with Michel, an attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. Franck knows this, but wants to live out his passion anyway.
In “Stranger by the Lake”, a young man, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) frequents a cruising spot for men in the country. It is very picturesque and quiet and a lot of regulars turn up there during the summer months when it is warm. One day, he sees Michel (Christophe Paou), a handsome newbie and is quite taken by him. While staying late one night, overlooking the lake, he sees Michel with his lover in the water. Initially, it appears like they are joking around but it quickly turns serious when Michel forces his partner under water and he never surfaces again. Franck witnesses everything but doesn’t go to the police. Instead, he hooks up with Michel and they quickly become lovers. The thought of being with someone so dangerous is exciting and exhilarating for Franck as he’s never been in this type of situation.
Several days go by before the body is found and shortly thereafter, the police turn up and start questioning everyone. Of course, Franck claims to know nothing, he doesn’t even tell Michel what he saw but he begins to suspect something is wrong when Michel becomes very jealous of him simply talking to his friend Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao) on the beach. After going for a swim, he notices that Henri has disappeared from the shoreline and when he goes exploring the woods, he finds his body, his neck slashed. He sees Michel walking away from the scene and then he sees Franck. After a small chase, Franck hides out in the woods and waits until it is almost dark, where he proceeds to stand up, look around and then the movie ends.
I love independent films but “Stranger by the Lake” wasn’t what the filmmakers were obviously trying to achieve, which would be artsy. Instead, it was monotonous, lifeless and mundane. We see the exact same scenario daily: Franck’s car pulls up: Franck walks to the beach: Franck undresses and lies by the water: Franck goes to talk to his ‘not gay, sort of straight’ friend Henri: they shoot the breeze for a while: Franck then goes to the woods with Michel and they have sex: they return to the beach: they swim: they have more sex until it all starts over again the next morning. I am not kidding, this was the scenario each and every day. The fact that Franck wouldn’t go to the authorities after witnessing a murder was just so baffling and unrealistic.
And even when he suspects that Michel might be planning his demise, that doesn’t deter him one bit. Instead, he continues turning up every day because after all, in this film, sex is all that matters. Murder isn’t important, friendship isn’t important, people’s feelings aren’t important, only sex. And the fact that we see actual oral sex between these guys with full orgasm in close-up, crosses the line between artsy and full-on pornographic. The movie was utterly boring and it was like the filmmakers suddenly realized this and tried to achieve some level of tension by throwing in a half-cocked (no pun intended) suspense thriller, to take the viewer’s minds off of all the full-frontal male nudity and unnecessary scenes of male ejaculation. It didn’t work.
In select theaters now