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Sunday 20 October 2019

Seedy Simon stalks the streets of Paris

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Film Review: Simon Killer (No Cert ,IFI, 101 minutes) **

Director: Antonio Campos Stars: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Lila Salet, Constance Rousseau **

Paris must sometimes wonder what it did to deserve a visit from every semi-literate American twit with a college degree, but arrive they do in their droves, clogging up the city's tourist traps and missing the point of everything.

At first glance, the moping protagonist of this relentlessly gloomy film from Antonio Campos seems like just one more pretentious graduate, who'll swan around Parisian cafés for a few months talking about writing his novel before high-tailing it back to the US to find a wife and a proper job.

But Simon (Brady Corbet) turns out to be unpredictable, and his Paris visit begins promisingly before spiraling horrifically out of control.

He arrives in the city having recently split from his long-term girlfriend, whom he claims to still love but threatens vaguely in rambling, unpleasant emails. When he Skypes his fussing mother, Simon rocks back and forth moaning incoherently, and while he claims to be interested in meeting someone new, he spends most of his free time masturbating and touring the seedy streets of Montmartre.

When a suave pimp persuades him to visit a brothel bar, Simon meets a delicately pretty hooker called Victoria (Mati Diop), and forms an instant attachment to her.

He seems to crave being mothered but is also obsessed with sex: when they start seeing each other outside the brothel, Simon and the girl reach an arrangement. He behaves gently and she's recovering from an abusive marriage, but Simon is not the shrinking violet he seems. And when they decide to start blackmailing her wealthier married clients, the cracks in their relationship quickly begin to show.

With its low lighting, irritating visual effects and extended, tedious sex scenes, Simon Killer feels a bit like a film student's attempt at porn.

Simon is a kind of sociopath, and Campos' film blandly investigates his dangerous disconnection from other people's feelings. But his vacuous self-absorbtion is all consuming and, while it's okay that he has no redeeming features, it's a pity he doesn't have any interesting ones.

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