Staying Vertical

101 minutes 2016

With Stranger by the Lake (2013), French writer-director Alain Guiraudie delivered his most straightforward and masterful film; this surrealist comedy (2016) marks a return to the odder, more ambiguous territory of his earlier work. A screenwriter hoping to drop out of society leaves the city for a random country town, where he tries but fails to live with a young shepherdess and eventually ends up destitute. On his way down the social ladder, he develops an erotic fascination with two men (one young, one old) and, in one memorable misadventure, submerges himself in a dirty river to avoid speaking to a movie director. The strange action plays out with a dreamlike lucidity reminiscent of late Luis Buñuel (though Guiraudie lacks Buñuel's dry wit). It's also dreamlike in its handling of time; the film takes place over a few years but feels as if it transpires over a few days. In French with subtitles.

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