Saturday, June 8, 2013

Simon Killer (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian  Brockway

Simon Killer

"Simon Killer" as the title might suggest, is an engagingly abstract character study on a sociopath drifter, from director Antonio Campos (Martha Marcy May Marlene). The story unfolds in layers, a bit like a puzzle and not everything is spelled out. Bars of light combine with objects in a room to provide clues (perhaps) as to what could be or might have been, all pertaining to the gloomy inner workings of Simon, a young and square-jawed college kid on leave. The handsome Brady Corbet (Funny Games, Melancholia) stars as Simon, a stoop-shouldered hound dog of a young man who is deflated by a recent breakup.

Simon wanders the streets of Paris aimlessly at night. Back at a friend's  house, he watches Internet porn while composing (possibly imaginary) emails to his ex-girlfriend back in the states which start out as superficially cheery but soon become listless and bitter.

One night, he has an angry encounter with a pedestrian, but is luckily diverted by a young girl Marianne (Constance Rousseau). She humors the stuttering young man, but while displaying some pushy interest, Simon is rebuffed.

As he walks on, he is badgered by hawkers who advertise bordellos. He passively agrees to sit with the demure and intoxicating Noura (Mati Diop). Noura engages Simon in a transaction but he can only be stimulated by looking away from Noura and staring at her backside.

Despite his aversion to eye contact, Noura becomes intrigued by the wounded and needy young American. But all is not crème fraîche and croissants.

Simon finds himself moaning like a beaten animal at times, prone to sudden rages. He marches into the street and attacks without warning.

There are no sirens, police or blood on cobblestones, and we are left to ponder the details of the attacks on our own.  At each conclusion, Simon is bruised and shaken as if gripped by fever.

Simon moves in Noura's apartment and she falls in love with the nonchalant blondie, who urges her to join him on a plan to extort money from her clients.

Simon then takes to the dark streets with more seething aggression. One night he spies Marianne and makes a pass at her. He tells her that he is is successful graduate with a published dissertation on the body's relationship between the brain and the eye.

Not your usual come-on line.

The interesting aspects of "Simon Killer" is that it does not force feed the plot or its character motivations. Why is Simon angry? What does he care about? How does he really feel about his mom, or others around him? We really don't know. But instead of being a kill joy, the film leaves you responsible to make up your own dénouement.

More compelling still is the film's use of   color and music all highlighting the errors of communication and the chaos of festivity.

Although decidedly downbeat in tone, "Simon Killer" captures the eerie digital  quality of Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience", while also echoing some of the European melancholy found in  Antonioni's "The Passenger"  (1975).

As the camera pulls in on Simon's slash of a mouth and his hooded eyebrows as he dismisses his mother and girlfriend, one might imagine a certain Highsmithic ne'er do well, weaving his suspicious, yet spontaneous way to a Mediterranean port forever unknown.

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