“Do you have to fuck someone in order to be able to sleep next to them?”
This question is directed towards the protagonist Franck, but is more likely meant for the gay audience watching. In the French psycho-thriller film Stranger by the Lake, men cruise for each other like wild animals in a prehistoric earth. Franck, a handsome, athletic man, visits a deserted lake that is known to be a gay cruising spot. He becomes completely engrossed with the dark and mysterious Michel. Michel is already screwing a hot blonde twink, but when Franck catches Michel drowning his fuck buddy in a lake, tension quickly escalates. Franck faces a dilemma: how far will he indulge in his passions with a serial killer?
Director Alan Guiradie’s minimalistic aesthetic contributes to the sense that these men live in a whole other world. There is no film score, only the background noise of bird chirps and rustling wind. Recurrent wide-span shots of glistening water and swaying trees transport the audience to this hedonistic garden of Adam. The French are more openly expressive with the male body; there’s so much full frontal nudity that by the end of the film, the sight of a floppy French penis will be rendered commonplace.
The film’s true strength lies in its exploration of the loneliness that plagues many gay men. In an age of Grindr and online hookups, Guiradie asks, “How far will you compromise your own health in order to feel loved?” Franck isn’t driven by libido but rather, by the hope that one day he’ll be able to have dinner with a guy after engaging in meaningless sex. The only other person who identifies with that loneliness is Henri, an overweight man who frequents the cruising spot and has just been dumped by his girlfriend. During his relationship, Henri had sex with men on the side, but now that he is single, he comes to the lake merely for the sake of human interaction. “At least you can talk to strangers here without being labeled a creep,” he remarks.
Unfortunately, a gay cruising spot is evidently the worst place to search for love and platonic friendship; blowjobs do not lead to going out for coffee. The men are emotionally hollow as they navigate from orgasm to orgasm, and Franck ultimately must decide where to draw the line between sex and love, or even if there is a line.
92 minutes. Screened by UCLA Graduate Student Association as a part of Melnitz Movies. Graphic sex scenes (lots of penises)