In the Q&A after the screening I asked the director why he wanted to tell this story (because it’s a dark one that really doesn’t have much meaning).
The ‘meaning’ is supposed to be that the protagonist crosses a boundary (by roughing up his last girlfriend, which we learn via her letter to him) and is then unable to get back to the more innocent person he was before. This ends in a slippery slope of increasingly poor decisions.
Except, it really doesn’t. He’s violent. It sounds like he was always violent. In the beginning he is hyper-sexual, then at one point he turns his girl down for sex. Very little character arc. He already had these traits from scene one.
Kudos to Brady Corbet for being able to handle those unending masturbation and sex scenes. That seems tough. I liked his acting as a whole. The main actress, Mati Diop, almost never changed expression or had any intonation in her voice. Flat.
This entire idea about Simon having studied eyes has very little relation to the story but it comes up probably 5 times. It’s a gimmick.
I found the entire film has no arc. The interesting idea would have been to follow this blackmail scam and leave the second Parisian love interest out of the story. Let’s follow Simon’s darkness somewhere new. Or possibly learn more about which people are dark enough to let Simon into their lives and learn the stories of their lives and understand how people so depraved and immoral tend to find each other and how that cycle keeps a constant, dark underbelly to the world.
Obviously these are all just my opinions but my opinion is that ‘shocking,’ sexual films like this have been done so much better; “American Psycho” and “Requiem for a Dream” being two, superior stories and films. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” would be a third.
If they wanted to tell the story of a Joran Van Der Sloot type I think they missed the mark. This film, as-is, will definitely not be winning the Sundance audience award this year. I would start with a severe re-edit. They have what could be an intriguing film on their hands; Someone, somewhere seems to have missed that vision.
On a positive note, great song selections!
Update — here is a much better film writer and his positive take.
I too loved Martha Marcy May Marlene, my favorite film from the 2011 program. Different strokes.
Update 2 — This guy argues that the divisiveness is a positive.