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

Calvary
Film Review: Calvary

An invidious, enervating piece of work blessedly relieved by Brendan Gleeson’s empathetic portrayal of a worldly priest confronting the sins of the world. More »

Rich Hill
Film Review: Rich Hill

This study of teens trying to make it in a very depressed and depressing heartland would have benefited from more hard info and less pictorial meandering. More »

Child of God
Film Review: Child of God

Depravity abounds in this James Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which despite a committed performance by Scott Haze proves a one-note endurance test. More »

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
Film Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

A return to the stripped–down ferocity of Eli Roth's no-frills 2002 shocker, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (which the title suggests is a prequel, though it doesn't really feel like one) lacks originality but delivers the body-horror goods far better than genre minimalist Ti West's Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break (2009), a broadly campy spin on ’70s high-school horror clichés. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. 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