Stranger by the Lake

Shout! Factory

We made a point with this year’s “Best of” lists to only include titles that received a U.S. release in 2014, but I’m not going to stick with that here. Foreign language films in particular can be difficult to highlight and give attention to if forced to wait for a proper American release — 2000’s Battle Royale, for example, took over a decade before getting a U.S. release — and many titles only see festival screenings before leaving our shores for good. So while the majority of the films below have been released in some form or other here in the States five of them remain outside the system. The odds are that some of them will debut here in 2015, and we’ll spread the word if and when that happens.



2014 is half over, and while that means we’re still six months away from our official ‘Best Of’ lists it also means it’s time to point out several great movies that you may very well have missed so far. Granted, if you’re a regular reader here at FSR than you’ve probably already heard us praising some or all of the films below, but either way the list of films here should serve as a guide of movies to seek out when you’re in the mood for something other than studio releases. As we did last year Landon Palmer and I have selected ten fantastic films from the past six months that we think deserve more attention than they received. It’s worth noting though that we’re not including festival-only titles and instead are limiting ourselves to small releases that have had some degree of exposure in theaters or on VOD. This made it a little bit tougher as half of my own top ten of 2014 so far only played Sundance (or other fests) while the other half are wide releases. But while these ten films may not be the ten best of the year so far they are great movies well worth watching.


inside llewyn davis 04

Three-hour lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color was announced the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, a choice that many foresaw as likely but not a sure thing. The jury that awarded the honor was led by Steven Spielberg and also included Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz and Lynne Ramsay. For the second place Grand Prix winner, they picked the latest from the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis, while for Jury Prize (considered the third biggest deal) they chose Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Like Father, Like Son. Like Father, Like Son was also recipient of an honorable mention from the Christian-based Ecumenical Jury, whose top prize went to The Past — the star of which, Bérénice Bejo, was named Best Actress by the main Cannes jury. Blue is the Warmest Color also earned multiple honors from the fest, taking the critic choice FIPRESCI Award for the In Competition category. The biggest surprise of today’s announcement seems to be Spielberg and Co.’s naming of Bruce Dern as Best Actor for the new film from Alexander Payne, Nebraska. After the jump, you can find a full list of main jury winners (from the festival website) and other honorees announced over the weekend accompanied by links to our review of the film where available.


review stranger by the lake

Opening with scenes of graphic full-frontal male nudity and proceeding towards seemingly unsimulated depictions of sexual acts on occasion, Alan Guiraudie‘s Stranger by the Lake certainly begins as it means to continue. If the initial glimpses of naked men on a makeshift French nude beach act as an opening statement for the film, over the course of the runtime this frank imagery serves to remind that nudity for nudity’s sake does not necessarily constitute good cinema in of itself, in spite of the film’s many other qualities. Our protagonist, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) finds himself quite literally flirting with danger when a trip to his local gay hookup place, a secluded beach area next to a lake, sees him meet and take a liking to the moustachioed Michel (Christophe Paou). It all seems cutesy and (relatively) innocent until late one night Franck catches Michel drowning one of his sexual partners, yet in the throes of passion nevertheless still finds himself irrevocably drawn to him. Soon enough, the cops come a-calling, and Franck and Michel’s burgeoning, uneasy romance becomes a whole lot more complicated.

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published: 01.31.2015
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published: 01.30.2015
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