Writer-director Alain Guiraudie's gay erotic thriller Stranger by the Lake / L'inconnu du lac has won the 2013 Queer Palm handed out to Cannes Film Festival movies featuring gay, lesbian, bi, tri, multi, transgender, etc. characters. Stranger by the Lake was screened in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.
Set near an idyllic lake where hot-and-heavy gay cruising takes place during the summer season, Guiraudie's sexually charged thriller revolves around Franck (Pierre de Ladonchamps), a young man who falls in lust with brawny suspected murderer Michel (Christophe Paou). Strand Releasing will handle the distribution of Stranger by the Lake in North America.
'Stranger by the Lake': Mixing explicit sex with explicit love
As quoted by Agence France Presse, Alain Guiraudie explained the (purportedly) graphic sex scenes in Stranger by the Lake as a cinematic union of romantic love and sex. "I wanted to mix the two," said Guiraudie. "I wasn't looking to have beautiful love scenes interrupted by pornographic vignettes. I wanted to mix all that, so that it all goes together, that the sex be beautiful."
That in 2013 people are still (or pretend to be) shocked by graphic on-screen sex, whether gay or hetero or both, says a lot more about early 21st century prudishness and emotional retardation than about either Stranger by the Lake or Abdellatif Kechiche's potential Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color / La vie d'Adèle, starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Kechiche's latest effort offers what has been described — possibly by someone with no access to a computer, on-demand programming, or a DVD store — as "the most explosively graphic lesbian sex in recent memory."
Something else that's positive about Stranger by the Lake: whatever its sociopolitical intentions, if any, Alain Guiraudie's film shows that, for better or for worse, there's much more in gay men's minds and lives than the desire of becoming accepted into mainstream society's traditional institutions.
Now, I should add that gay marriage became law in France just this past week. A few days later, Christian far-right figure Dominique Venner, formerly a member of the nationalist terrorist group OAS, shot himself dead in protest at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. Organized by France's far-right Christians, an anti-gay marriage march is in the works.
'Stranger by the Lake' cast
Besides Pierre de Ladonchamps (TV's L'amour en jeu; The Rebel, Louise Michel) as the man in lust and Christophe Paou (The Chef, Happy End) as the dangerous object of his desire, Stranger by the Lake features Patrick d'Assumçao, Jérôme Chappatte, Mathieu Vervisch, Gilbert Traina, Emmanuel Daumas, Sébastien Badachaoui, and Gilles Guérin. Sylvie Pialat, the late filmmaker Maurice Pialat's companion and, with him, co-screenwriter of 1987 Palme d'Or winner Under the Sun of Satan, produced Stranger by the Lake through Les Films du Worso.
Queer Palm winners
The nasty-sounding Queer Palm — surely the French could have come up with a better word than the English-language "queer" — is not sponsored by the Cannes Film Festival itself; it was created by journalist Franck Finance-Madureira in 2010. This year's Queer Palm jury was headed by Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues, of the erotic psychological drama O Fantasma.
Besides Blue Is the Warmest Color, another gay-themed film bypassed by the 2013 Queer Palm jury was Steven Soderbergh's high-profile Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover-chauffeur Scott Thorson.
Other Queer Palm contenders were Arielle Dombasle's Opium, with Dombasle, Niels Schneider, Julie Depardieu, and veteran Marisa Berenson; Chloé Robichaud's Sarah Would Rather Run / Sarah préfère la course, with Sophie Desmarais; Anurag Kashyap, Djbakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Karan Johar's omnibus Bollywood celebration Bombay Talkies; Yann Gonzales' You and the Night / Les Rencontres d'après minuit, also featuring Niels Schneider, and in which a young couple and their transvestite maid get ready for an orgy with guests that include Eric Cantona, Alain Delon Jr., and Béatrice Dalle; and Guillaume Gallienne's comedy Me, Myself and Mum / Les Garçons et Guillaume à table!
Previous Queer Palm winners were the following: Gregg Araki's Kaboom, with Thomas Dekker; Oliver Hermanus' South African drama Beauty, with Deon Lotz and Charlie Keegan; and Xavier Dolan's eventual Canadian Screen Award nominee Laurence Anyways, with Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clément.
The 2013 Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or and other official awards will be announced at the closing ceremony tomorrow.
Pierre de Ladonchamps, Christophe Paou in the gay erotic thriller Stranger by the Lake photo: Les Films du Worso.