Simon Killer

A new Sundance scoop from the Williamsburg-via-NYU film collective that brought us Martha Marcy May Marlene, Antonio Campos’ Simon Killer stars Brady Corbet as a heartsick young American bottoming out in Paris. His French isn’t so good, and even his English, in times of emotional distress, tends to devolve into runs of guttural whimpers. The whole movie is a time of emotional distress: Simon has had a bad breakup. It’s nobody’s fault, although it doesn’t bode well when he sends his ex an email saying “You could at least get back to me. There’s nothing I could possibly do from here.” This seems like a red flag, one of several. Meanwhile, playing his pity card, he takes up with a prostitute (Mati Diop), and, briefly, with another girl (Constance Rousseau), whose eyes he likes because they wiggle in a certain way. In school, Simon explains more than once, he studied the relationship between the eye and the brain. A cerebral sort, Simon doesn’t seem cut out for extortion, but tries it anyway with the prostitute’s other clients. He does this because the movie needs to escalate, just as he explains his field of research because the movie needs to pretend its flashy, abstract color-field interludes are character-driven. Otherwise, no amount of mannered compositions and exacting music supervision and frank, stark sex scenes will make up for a cliched scenario. (Well, ok, at least Simon isn’t a writer.) Campos is clever and crafty, a willing apprentice to Michael Haneke, and style comes easily to him, if not naturally. If this film really wanted to know where killers come from, it’d stop posing and start actually looking.