AFI Fest: ‘Stranger by the Lake’

I couldn’t help but think of my mother while I was watching the French murder mystery, “Stranger by the Lake” (L’inconnu du lac). This movie is pornography made legitimate but barely. None of the body baring is by women. This is a gay movie about gay men having casual sex with fatal consequences.

This isn’t appropriate for young children and will likely make heterosexual men blush. Unlike lesbian porn (or rather pornography made by men about lesbians),  heterosexual men often do not want to see gay male situations.

In America, men rarely get naked for movies and then full frontal nudity is usually out of the question. That’s not actually what happens in the theater with live performances. When I was a theater critic for the LA Weekly, I spent most of my weekends in Hollywood (Hollywood proper, West Hollywood and North Hollywood). Male nudity wasn’t unusual. I warned my companions that nudity might be involved. For some, even the discreet kiss in the Mark Taper Forum’s presentation of “Gross Indecency” brought a face of revulsion from one of my friends.

As a theater, I wasn’t only exposed regularly to nudity–male and female, I was also exposed to pornography. What would my mother think?

The world today is very different than the one my mother grew up in. Now we live in a world where pop stars do porn (Madonna) and everything beautiful becomes some kind of porn–from food porn to word porn. It’s as if we can’t separate the sensuous from the sexual.

In the movie “Stranger by the Lake,” friendship, love and lust are confused. A murderer may go free because he’s handsome, sexually skilled and the main witness lusts after him.

Mother was right. You shouldn’t talk to strangers. You shouldn’t have sex with people you hardly know. You shouldn’t settle for porn when you could be watching a movie with an actual plot and dialogue.

“Stranger by the Lake” is a murder mystery, but without the sex, some of it very real and the rest could be simulated. Does that really substitute for character development?  Sorry mom. I was watching porn but it won a directing award at this year’s Cannes Film Fest.

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