The proximity between sex and death has rarely seemed as intimate as in Stranger by the Lake, the accomplished new film by gifted French director Alain Guiraudie.
Chiselled and guileless behind wide eyes, Franck (Pierre de Ladonchamps) has come to a secluded lake to cruise its sunbathing male population; he quickly fixates on Michel (Christophe Paou), a preposterously macho newcomer who seems to be hiding something beneath his handsome veneer.
It turns out that still waters run deep – and with a hell of an undertow to boot.
The genius of Guiraudie’s precisely measured set-up is how it affords him space to trenchantly explore ideas about fear and desire without overstepping generic boundaries; whatever its submerged themes, the film is first and foremost a thriller, with its share of superbly meted-out shocks.
Spare, steely, sexually explicit in a way that transcends mere provocation, Stranger by the Lake is vital cinema.