Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake

Alain Guiraudie, L’Inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake), 2013, 35 mm, color, sound, 97 minutes. Michel (Christophe Paou) and Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps).

“WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THE ARCHITECTURE,” Claude Chabrol once claimed. “You can’t actually see it in a film, but it is there. It is abstract but you must have it.” Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake imposes an architecture, more obvious than abstract, on a wild and isolated setting: a gay nude beach and forested cruising area in southern France. The film’s formalist structure—Stranger takes place in a single location over ten consecutive days, all but the final two introduced by a similar fixed shot of an adjacent parking area—intensifies its depiction of the vagaries of desire, an amour so fou it courts death as its inevitable end. Reminiscent of Chabrol’s rural thrillers, particularly Le Boucher (1970), which also opens with a high-angled pastoral view (of a Périgord valley), Guiraudie’s film turns an open, Edenic space into a circumscribed arena of erotic ritual

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