SIMON

Antonio Campos’ second feature Simon Killer reminded me, in tone not style, of what Bernardo Bertolucci might be doing as an emerging filmmaker in 2013. It’s dark material, sexual but not sexy and filled with the city’s secrets.  Its story takes place in the shadows, even in the rare scene shot during the day the sun is obscured by clouds. The performances, particularly that of Mati Diop and Brady Corbett, were impressive and completely believable. I honestly didn’t know Corbett was capable of something like this as an actor. The film follows his character Simon, a recent neuroscience graduate whose thesis (boring but published, he adds as a side note more than once) focused on the relationship between the mind and the eye, who has come to Paris to try and recover from a recent break-up. Campos uses several clever devices to put you inside the head and feet of Corbett’s Simon including having him read out an email as he composes it, complete with back tracks and rewording as well as having the camera follow him as he turns up the volume on some well-chosen musical cues (Glasser, Austra) to duplicate the experience from within Simon’s headphones. Both actor and director help build the story’s tension, holding your interest and maintaining an anxious, unsettled feeling as you wait for the dark turn implied by the film’s title. That impulse only grows as we learn what an undependable liar Simon can be. It’s exciting, modern work that seems more concerned with developing its own cinematic language than selling tickets. Maybe it was the Paris setting, but the film also seemed to owe a debt to the work of Claire Denis with each scene balanced on an uneasy mix of the mundane and menacing.

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