6.8/10
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L'inconnu du lac (2013)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance, Thriller | 12 June 2013 (France)
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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.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Franck
... Michel
Patrick d'Assumçao ... Henri (as Patrick D'Assumçao)
Jérôme Chappatte ... Inspecteur Damroder
Mathieu Vervisch ... Eric
Gilbert Traina ... L'homme du mardi soir (as Gilbert Traïna)
Emmanuel Daumas ... Philippe
Sébastien Badachaoui ... Le mari d'Eric
Gilles Guérin ... L'homme à femmes
François-Renaud Labarthe ... Pascal Ramière (as François Labarthe)
Claude Bellelle ... Un naturiste
Slawomir Cieminski ... Un naturiste
Jean-Marie Crémier ... Un naturiste
Bernard Delavaux ... Un naturiste
Bernard German ... Un naturiste
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Storyline

Franck, a fit gay man, seeks love at a lakeside gay cruising beach. Among the mostly pudgy nude sunbathers, he befriends Henri, a depressed middle-aged bi-sexual who enjoys the quiet but accepts Franck's company. When Michel appears, Franck finally spots a man he'd like to know sexually. Unfortunately, he also spots him drowning his gay lover but opts not to tell anyone in order to consider having a relationship with this handsome yet remorseless killer. Written by statmanjeff

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

12 June 2013 (France)  »

Also Known As:

El desconocido del lago  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$27,599, 26 January 2014, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$324,891, 4 May 2014
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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Right before the movie was released in French theaters in June 2013, its posters were censored and removed by the conservative mayors of two cities (Saint-Cloud and Versailles) after a few people had complained. It happened in the context of rather harsh demonstrations against the gay marriage law. Complaints were about the gay kiss in the foreground and an ambiguous scene in the background which might represent a fellatio. See more »

Quotes

Franck: [smitten by Michel] I really like him.
Henri: [warily] He does have a nice body.
Franck: It's typical. The guys I like are always taken.
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Connections

Featured in At the Movies: Episode #10.23 (2013) See more »

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Men Behaving Badly
16 June 2014 | by See all my reviews

What drives people to engage in self-destructive behavior? Why do people seek out things (people, actions) that are bad for them? These seem to be the questions at the center of "Stranger by the Lake," a quiet film that casts an unsettling spell.

Franck is a young gay man who makes daily visits to an idyllic lakefront beach that serves as a popular gay cruising spot. Men scope each other out and then with a nod of the head or wink of the eye agree to wander off into the bushes to engage in all sorts of sexual activities, safe or otherwise. Franck crushes on Michel, a studly guy who proudly struts around naked, and finally succeeds in securing a tryst with him. But then one night he witnesses Michel casually drown another man. In one of the film's most effective twists, the knowledge of Michel's murderous tendencies draws Franck closer to him, and we watch him fall more and more for this guy who we know he should be turning in.

The film is one sustained note of creeping dread. From the start we just feel like things are headed to a bad place, and we stare with morbid fascination to see just what that bad place will be. All sorts of unpleasant spectres flirt at the margins of these men's lives. There's something predatory about the act of cruising in the first place, and the loneliness of Franck's life -- never explicitly shown but always implied -- makes him that much easier a victim. And then there are the unspoken phantoms of disease and addiction that color the men's behavior. For Franck, sexually transmitted diseases are a risk worth taking for the thrill of the hookup, just as an addict sets the consideration of consequences aside until after the high has worn off. Franck is compulsively drawn to the lake again and again long past the point where better sense, not to mention an instinct for self preservation, should prevail, and he willingly puts himself in greater danger as the film progresses. It's tempting to read the Michel character as a sort of personification of the allure of self abuse -- the excitement of self-imposed danger turned into an enticing and literal bogeyman.

The ending to the film is ambiguous and supremely creepy. It's a movie that's hard to get out of your head after you've seen it.

Grade: A


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