Simon Killer Review
The FilmAfter dabbling with Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Johnnie To, Eureka add some more current film-makers to their Masters of Cinema series. Still this is only Antonio Campos' second feature so it seems an awfully confident inclusion in the MOC pantheon, so I guess much more kudos has been taken from his collaborators, who made the very well received Martha Marcy May Marlene.Still, with the To and Kurosawa films, many people must have said that they're only genre directors and does the quality of the films justify the "Masters" tag?. And they'd be right..so I will apply the same consideration to Simon Killer that I did to the marvellous Tokyo Sonata and Mad Detective.
Played, ably enough, by Brady Corbet, Simon is staying at a family friend's flat and rather lost and lonely. One evening he starts talking to some french girls going for the tube before returning for an evenings' onanism with his laptop, and the next day he patronizes a prostitute/hostess whose life he insinuates himself into before setting up a blackmailing scheme with her. He renews acquaintances with the girls and matters come to a head.Simon Killer is couched in colour coding and a deliberately undramatic approach to its action. It is basically a portrait of a thoroughly shitty individual who exploits, manipulates and destroys. Corbet embodies this scumbag well and gives this character study credibility by making the worst of this man believable and integrated within his portrayal.
Unfortunately, that's about it. Every annoying self-conscious tick of an American indie film is present and the anti-dramatic tone creates an almost boring atmosphere for what is some very affecting action. In fact, why the film didn't choose to be about the far more interesting and sympathetic Victoria is beyond me - at one moment she tells a heartbreaking secret to Corbet who pretends not to understand and doesn't pursue it, much as the director chooses to avoid truly affecting material throughout.Still it all boils down to the central idea, this quietish tale of an extraordinary scumbag who happens to be a foreigner abroad. And the harsh truth for me is that the "arty" clever-clever presentation of this slight idea is simply annoying, wafer thin and surprisingly empty. Much as this character is eventually dumped by all around him, so I take my cue from the supporting cast and end up wishing he would leave and that this precious shallow film follows him out the door.
The DiscWell, MOC do their usual bang up job on the presentation of the film and the inclusion of extras. On the disc itself, we get three interview pieces featuring Campos who suffers from the same charisma deficit that his film has. The one to one interview is profoundly pretentious with Zach Wigan deploying questions that Garth Crooks, chief long-winded inquisitor of thick footballers, would eschew as rather verbose and self-involved. Wigan even gets clips of the movie to ask Campos about his magic whilst the director stares bored at the wall. Campos then joins Sean Durkin and Josh Mond to talk about collaborations and their experience as three young artists in a piece which is as much about their bromance as how exceedingly well coiffed they are - again they had more fun recording this than I had watching it. The final toe-curling interview features Corbet and Campos, with their moms - yes, their moms.
I am sure the intention of these pieces is to share a presumed liking for Campos but given his slight film, his slight career and my own lack of love for either, these interviews annoy. Campos short film The Last 15 is included as well as a bourgeois family sits down for dinner and their son blows his brains out. It has a bit more bite than the main feature and seems to have a clearer sense of purpose so perhaps I have been a little unkind to the director.The A/V quality is as good as you could hope for with a digitally shot film barely a year old. Black levels are impeccable with excellent detail regardless of light, colour balance is beautifully judged and there is no evidence of edge enhancement or technical jiggery pokery to affect the film-like appearance. This is possibly the best transfer I have seen this year. Soundwise, the master audio mix offers very little in the sound-stage outside of the front channels, it is very clearly reproduced and the music is effectively deployed through the mix. There are subs for hard of hearing and for non-English dialogue, or none at all - your choice...
Also included in the release is a 27 page booklet. This includes cast listings for the film and the Last 15 as well, Karina Longworth's article on the film, separate interviews with Corbet and Campos and a final piece on the poster for the film. Much as I said with the filmed pieces, your view of the booklet's content will be coloured by whether you like the film or not. For me, it felt ridiculous and full of over praising, still someone at MOC must love this film and think all this care is warranted.
SummarySimon Killer was really not my thing - slight, pretentious and rather empty. If you don't share my view then you'll love the care put into this release, if you do agree with me you'll wonder how this film finds itself in such august company.
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