Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Antonio Campos
Written by: Antonio Campos
Starring: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Nicolas Ronchi, Constance Rousseau & Lila Salet
SIMON KILLER is the kind of movie that polarizes audiences. Some will dismiss it as pretentious dribble, while others will see it as a haunting character study. I fall squarely into the latter. This is a unique, disturbing look into a holiday taken by a totally unpredictable character. In the 106-minute running time, I felt myself becoming increasingly unnerved and thrown off-balance. Part of this can be attributed to the psychedelic style that the movie sometimes turns to, but mainly it was because of how manipulative the protagonist was. He winds the characters around his every little whim, saying whatever they possibly could want to hear. Just like these characters, I felt like Simon manipulated me and I mean that in the best way possible.
Simon has suffered a painful breakup with his girlfriend Michelle and visits Paris on holiday to clear his head. We are never told what exactly happened with him and Michelle. We are given Simon’s version of the events in brief dialogue. While desperately striving for human contact in any way possible, Simon comes to a strip club and takes a liking to a certain stripper/hooker there. She seems painfully disinterested in him, so he finds a way to get her attention. What follows is a case of blackmail, betrayal, human darkness, and the viewer questioning just how much we actually believe our unreliable protagonist by the time the film is over.
Produced by the same people who brought MARTHA, MARCY, MAY, MARLENE (another fantastic independent film that relied on an unusual protagonist and unreliable storytelling), SIMON KILLER is the kind of film that is meant to be analyzed. Taken in layers, I could think of a nice essay that could be written on one element of the movie alone. This is definitely a film to make you think and it isn’t necessarily made to be enjoyed. It’s a dark drama that goes into some pretty depressing places.
Brady Corbet (who has already proven himself to be an amazing actor in FUNNY GAMES and MARTHA, MARCY, MAY, MARLENE) gives an absolutely incredible performance as Simon. Though he starts off as a sad individual, it slowly becomes apparent that he yearns for attention and is intensely dependent. Simon could be viewed as a sort of parasite. He latches onto one thing and when something else (possibly bigger and better) comes by, he latches onto that instead.
Showing some emotions, but also a lack of them, the viewer is really left to wonder what exactly was genuine. I am still pondering just what I make of it. It leaves you thinking and wanting to talk about the film with a fellow lover of film. SIMON KILLER is as far from a mainstream film as you can get. It’s subversive, twisted and wholly original piece of cinema. This isn’t entertainment. This is art!