×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Simon Killer

Antonio Campos' second feature is an unsettling broken-psyche study starring Brady Corbet as a sort of modern-day Ripley, amoral and disengaged enough from the feelings of others to become a potentially fatal liability in any relationship.

With:
Simon - Brady Corbet
Victoria/Noura - Mati Diop
Marianne - Constance Rousseau
Sophie - Lila Sale
Rene - Solo

For a 23-year-old thesp, Brady Corbet seems unusually preoccupied with sociopaths, so much so that he and the creative team behind “Martha Marcy May Marlene” have built yet another unsettling broken-psyche study in “Simon Killer.” Directed by Antonio Campos (“Afterschool”), the film fashions Corbet into a sort of modern-day Ripley, amoral and disengaged enough from the feelings of others to become a potentially fatal liability in any relationship. Whatever revelations Corbet and Campos uncovered in exploring this character are well disguised from audiences, however, yielding a sexually explicit, emotionally opaque pic dependent on festival accolades to avoid being relegated to pervy VOD fare.

Brits call the soul-searching period young people take after graduating from college the gap year, a time to travel, experiment and find themselves before committing to grown-up responsibility. That’s where Simon’s head is when the film opens … sort of. Something went wrong with his five-year relationship with his high-school sweetheart, sending him to Paris to regroup. Simon’s a handsome enough guy, and just conversant enough in French that he doesn’t have much trouble scoring phone numbers from local girls, even if the pic’s bilingual mix is murder on the ears.

But the filmmakers aren’t interested in what appears on the surface; there’s something amiss deeper down, and it’s that half-buried rage that will ultimately become their subject. Instead of enjoying a simple Parisian fling, Simon allows himself to be lured into a sex club, where he pays for an awkward encounter with a prostitute named Victoria (Mati Diop, who collaborated with Campos and Corbet on the story).

Simon Killer” is the sort of film, accepted by critics and a very small sliver of the moviegoing public, that establishes its daring (actually an appalling form of moral ambivalence) by cutting from a video chat between Simon and his mom to a scene of strenuous sexual intercourse with the aforementioned hooker. Though the script doesn’t provide many insights into Simon’s character, it’s worth remembering that he’s coming out of his first serious relationship, which makes it tricky to explain the transgressive sex he seeks from Victoria and others. He’s still too new to Paris to be hunting his last tango.

Simon’s capacity for violence feels similarly out of character, depending on Corbet’s own history with edgy roles (“Funny Games,” “Melancholia”) and a tension never entirely achieved, despite occasional strobe effects and a soundtrack that alternates between uncomfortable silence and blaring selections from Simon’s personal playlist. Not long after paying Victoria for sex, Simon picks a fight with some aggressive thugs and shows up at her workplace seeking sympathy. She believes his story and invites him into her apartment, confiding her most personal secrets, a harrowing miscarriage story that manages to be simultaneously poignant and emblematic of the film’s dark sense of humor.

When asked about his own past, Simon explains he was a neuroscience major who “studied the relationship between the brain and the eyes.” Is he lying? Maybe. The clues are insufficient to judge, tucked within d.p. Joe Anderson’s carefully calibrated compositions. More significantly, Campos has dedicated his own career to exploring that same relationship: How do the images we consume shape the way we think?

In “Afterschool,” a flurry of viral videos and online porn serves to explain how a boarding-school student might commit murder. Here, though Campos is more discreet about showing auds the same imagery, there is clearly something dysfunctional about the way Simon sees women as basically sexual objects, whether chatting them up in the street or over an Internet sex site. When confronted with a new partner, Simon feels compelled to stop his conquest mid-strip just to stare at her body.

Considering how graphic Campos is willing to be, “restrained” may not the right word for his approach, and yet “Simon Killer” withholds so much that some amount of frustration is sure to follow. This noncommittal technique, relying on a combination of audience projection and unknowable complexity, defies the old-fashioned pleasure of peeling the onion of character psychology, but rewards those willing to read between the lines.

Simon Killer

Production: A FilmHaven Entertainment presentation of a Borderline Films production. (International sales: CAA/UTA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Josh Mond, Sean Durkin, Matt Palmieri. Co-producer, Melody Roscher. Directed, written by Antonio Campos; story, Campos, Brady Corbet, Mati Diop.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, widescreen), Joe Anderson; editors, Zac Stuart-Pontier, Campos, Babak Jalali; music, Saunder Jurriaans, Danny Bensi; music supervisor, John Kessler; production designer, Nicolas De Boiscuille; costume designer, Laetitia Bouix; sound, Micah Bloomberg; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Coll Anderson; assistant director, Tomas "Dutch" Dekaj; associate producers, Alexander Norton, Marie-Louise Khondji, Florence Lobet; casting, Nicolas Ronchi, Susan Shopmaker. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 20, 2012. Running time: 105 MIN.

Cast: Simon - Brady Corbet
Victoria/Noura - Mati Diop
Marianne - Constance Rousseau
Sophie - Lila Sale
Rene - Solo
With: Michael Abiteboul, Nicolas Ronchi, Etienne Rotha Moeng, Alexandra Neill, Jacques-Andre Coquin, Marc Gaviard. (English, French dialogue)

More Scene

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content