Following on from the critical success of Afterschool in 2008, Antonio Campos returns with Simon Killer starring Brady Corbet and Mati Diop.
Simon Killer tells the story of Simon (Corbet), a New York postgradute who's just split up with his girlfriend of five years (who we never see) and visits his cousin Carlo in Paris, France.
Whilst attempting to flirt and interact with French females he comes across Victoria (Diop), a prostitute who Simon attempts to make feel sorry for him. And so begins an intriguing dynamic between the two as the intensity cranks up and the need for companionship.
Campos in a screenplay he co-wrote with the leading actors, has created a very unnerving viewing experience for an audience who may be used to such questionable subject material with a European persuasion.
In Simon, the creative team have created an unsympathetic leading male who wants nothing but sympathy as his reward for being in a relationship. Simon attempts to use Victoria as a mark to blackmail rich husbands she sleeps with; this casual misogyny hides the equally casual disregard Simon has for women in general.
This is enhanced by the use of the non-existent Michelle, Simon's ex-girlfriend, who is invisible to us and yet has a voice in the emails she exchanges with Simon. The one she does send to Simon, is read by Simon himself, another way of controlling his own narrative and viewpoint. Simon is only happy if you hear just his side of the story. In his first sexual encounter with Victoria he masturbates himself to climax whilst in view of a naked Victoria, in the scene before this encounter he masturbated online in a video chat.
For a film that has one character in every scene such as Simon - we watch the action five feet behind him by way of a roaming camera over his shoulder, you would expect a margin of empathy towards him but maybe we are not meant to as it becomes apparent Simon is manipulating the truth of his published university work and the full extent of his breakdown with Michelle. We are also subjected to what Simon hears by way of his iPod being part of the soundtrack when he is walking in Paris streets.
Simon's actions may remind people of another sociopath who roamed European streets, Tom Ripley from Patricia Highsmith's novels; yet whilst Ripley was seduced by the elite classes, Simon is firmly living in the squalor and petty blackmails that Ripley would dare not touch.
Another literary character Simon is reminiscent of is Adam Gordon from Ben Lerner's 'Leaving the Atocha Station', in that Adam lives in Madrid on a fellowship but he does not know much Spanish and is left to look like anything but the brilliantly minded poet he is meant to be.
In the film Simon is a postgraduate, meaning currently unemployed and so lacking direction in his career seeks to gain some control over women in his life; whilst Simon can speak French, when Victoria tells him off for spending the night with another woman and denouncing him in French, it is telling that Simon yells, 'I can't understand you when you speak French'.
Brady Corbet is certainly building a quiet momentum as a go to guy for off-the-handle misanthropes and this is a fine performance in unison with the esteemable Diop.
There is an undeniable level of uncertainty in the film's direction and leaves a somewhat questionable impression on the mind's eye, yet Campos shows an assured hand with the subject matter and having gone from high school to a postgraduate, it would be interesting to see if he completes the trilogy and shows us a traumatised awkward married man with a dark side. Campos maintains his exposure as a director with great potential to offer something both unsettling and intelligent.
SIMON KILLER is released by Eureka Entertainment in UK and Eire on 12th April 2013 and scheduled for a DVD/Blu-ray relese on 24th June 2013.