Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Simon Killer

Chilly, uninviting tale of an uncivilized American in Paris won’t travel far.

April 4, 2013

-By Todd McCarthy


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1374738-Simon-Killers-Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There is little to compensate for the cold and nasty nature of Simon Killer, an unpalatable Franco-American entrée one would like to send back to wherever it came from. This lushly and pretentiously made drama about a young American whose worst instincts are unleashed during a stay in Paris endeavors to entice with details of the seedy underworld of La Pigalle but is a turn-off in almost every respect. This latest effort by the production group behind 2011’s big Sundance attraction Martha Marcy May Marlene will find meager traction Stateside.

Writer-director Antonio Campos, noted for his 2008 directorial debut Afterschool, has acknowledged the influence of the prolific French crime novelist Georges Simenon on these dirty doings in the less savory parts of Paris. But there are echoes as well of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley in the lying, deceptions and blackmail ploys of Simon, Campos’ young American in Paris, played with unmodulated seediness by Brady Corbet.

Taking a European break after grad school and the end of a long relationship, Simon indulges, amusingly, in computer porn and noses around Paris a bit before ducking into one of the district’s many girlie bars. He partakes of a quickie with the attractively skinny Victoria (Mati Diop, good), who likes him enough to propose continuing the (paid) relationship outside the premises of the club.

Their sexual relationship is delineated in sufficient detail to make it clear how and when Simon gains the upper hand, whereupon he launches into a sordid little blackmail enterprise while simultaneously managing to become entirely broke. Suddenly feeling himself studly, though, he starts up with another girl and begins imagining himself as capable of nearly anything, which actually might have been the case all along.

There is merit and perhaps necessity in keeping certain things vague and unknown in tales such as this. Shrewd storytellers know how to manipulate and tease audiences in their giving and withholding of information, but Campos merely irritates with his obfuscations and parsimonious revelation of character traits and hints of what has actually taken place. At the very least, he is artistically consistent in this unrevelatory impulse: Many shots follow the back of Simon’s head, Dardenne Brothers-style, as he walks through the streets, but the director keeps what lies ahead and around him deliberately fuzzy and unfocused, to unedifying, not to mention un-scenic, effect. More than a few compositions in personal interior scenes are framed directly at crotch level.

The heavy techno-rock soundtrack is occasionally seductive but far more often harshly irritating. Dialogue switches off between English and French almost at random, or with Simon’s varying ability to speak and understand the latter. As with the Ripley stories, the dramatic resolution is open-ended, creating the possibility of sequels that, in this case, will surely not be forthcoming.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Simon Killer

Chilly, uninviting tale of an uncivilized American in Paris won’t travel far.

April 4, 2013

-By Todd McCarthy


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1374738-Simon-Killers-Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There is little to compensate for the cold and nasty nature of Simon Killer, an unpalatable Franco-American entrée one would like to send back to wherever it came from. This lushly and pretentiously made drama about a young American whose worst instincts are unleashed during a stay in Paris endeavors to entice with details of the seedy underworld of La Pigalle but is a turn-off in almost every respect. This latest effort by the production group behind 2011’s big Sundance attraction Martha Marcy May Marlene will find meager traction Stateside.

Writer-director Antonio Campos, noted for his 2008 directorial debut Afterschool, has acknowledged the influence of the prolific French crime novelist Georges Simenon on these dirty doings in the less savory parts of Paris. But there are echoes as well of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley in the lying, deceptions and blackmail ploys of Simon, Campos’ young American in Paris, played with unmodulated seediness by Brady Corbet.

Taking a European break after grad school and the end of a long relationship, Simon indulges, amusingly, in computer porn and noses around Paris a bit before ducking into one of the district’s many girlie bars. He partakes of a quickie with the attractively skinny Victoria (Mati Diop, good), who likes him enough to propose continuing the (paid) relationship outside the premises of the club.

Their sexual relationship is delineated in sufficient detail to make it clear how and when Simon gains the upper hand, whereupon he launches into a sordid little blackmail enterprise while simultaneously managing to become entirely broke. Suddenly feeling himself studly, though, he starts up with another girl and begins imagining himself as capable of nearly anything, which actually might have been the case all along.

There is merit and perhaps necessity in keeping certain things vague and unknown in tales such as this. Shrewd storytellers know how to manipulate and tease audiences in their giving and withholding of information, but Campos merely irritates with his obfuscations and parsimonious revelation of character traits and hints of what has actually taken place. At the very least, he is artistically consistent in this unrevelatory impulse: Many shots follow the back of Simon’s head, Dardenne Brothers-style, as he walks through the streets, but the director keeps what lies ahead and around him deliberately fuzzy and unfocused, to unedifying, not to mention un-scenic, effect. More than a few compositions in personal interior scenes are framed directly at crotch level.

The heavy techno-rock soundtrack is occasionally seductive but far more often harshly irritating. Dialogue switches off between English and French almost at random, or with Simon’s varying ability to speak and understand the latter. As with the Ripley stories, the dramatic resolution is open-ended, creating the possibility of sequels that, in this case, will surely not be forthcoming.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

E-Team
Film Review: E-Team

Four international human rights investigators descend on political atrocities to determine accountability. More »

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here