Simon Killer

Simon Killer


Reviewed by: Sophie Monks Kaufman

The light in the Parisian club is so red it evokes Irreversible. Yet no heads are being pulped. Two young people are leaping up and down in glee at each other’s company. Lovely. Except it’s not. This happy and protracted scene set to the electronic pulse of Austra marks a diabolical decision from Simon (Brady Corbet), as brutal in its psychological implications as Noe’s physical equivalent.

When you create a title that’s a composite of your lead man’s name and the word ‘killer’, it’s odds on that brutality will feature. Whether a spoiler or a red herring, it’s an interesting and characteristically unsettling choice from director Antonio Campos, one third of Borderline Films along with Josh Mond and Sean Durkin - whose splash-making psychological thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene Campos co-produced (In keeping with their rotating film-maker style, Durkin and Mond produce here). The blunt allegation instantly and intentionally prejudices the perception of Simon, a depressed and vulnerable American college graduate seeking refuge in Paris from a traumatic break-up.

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Corbet is in almost every scene. He’s a shuffling figure, clad in the blandest of GAP wear, who familiarises an unwelcoming city with a soundtrack of electronic tunes that we hear through tinny iPod speakers then in glorious, surround-sound blasts. As he peers through the glass of the Louvre, bemused by the city sprawling all around, Spectral Display’s It Takes a Muscle to Fall in Love squelches irresistibly. Good or bad, come what may, the only killer part of him in this microcosm is the instinct to frame state of mind with music.

Yet the film names stalks your consciousness amplified by strange camerawork – Campos’ signature – that cuts off characters’ heads, focusing instead on hands or torsos. Corbet himself is like quicksilver, you’re aching to root for him but he darts in and out of relatability. An awkward laptop wank takes you back to the beginning of 2012 and Steve McQueen’s Shame. The similarities persist as we see the gutter-side of one of the world’s major cities. Paris’s underbelly is as neon as New York’s, and here Simon allows himself to be shepherded into a slicked-up brothel and introduced to Victoria (Mati Diop), a tart with a heart and a port in a storm.

‘Is this a social-realist version of Pretty Woman?’ you ask yourself as the two form an unlikely attachment, aggressive sex as much a bedrock of their relationship as any finer feelings. Diop injects her hard-luck-story character with deep warmth although, be warned, this is The Simon Show, and Diop can’t act an extra dimension onto the male-serving part she plays.

Worries about Campos’ perception of women aside, Simon Killer is a gripping character study, finding its protagonist at a time where two important things have ended and the vacuum of dubious mental health sucks at his feet. Unsettling scenes stack up, sweeping the audience to a place best represented by a terrible animal bark climactically released by Simon. There’s no reassurance to be found in this cold world but Campos’s talent for getting mood whistling abominably through your ears is worthy of admiration.

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2012
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A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of five years. Once there, he falls in love with a young prostitute and their fateful journey begins.
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Owen Van Spall ***

Director: Antonio Campos

Writer: Antonio Campos

Starring: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Michaël Abiteboul, Alex Desjoux, Marc Gaviard, Alexandra Neil, Nicolas Ronchi, Etienne Rotha Moeng, Constance Rousseau, Lila Salet, Solo

Year: 2011

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France, US

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