In Simon Killer actor Brady Corbet (24, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Melancholia) plays the titular character as a mildly apologetic, not particularly self-confident American in Paris, especially when he is around other people. It is only in his private moments or when we are made privy to the emails he is sending an ex-girlfriend that we realize that something isn’t quite right about Simon.
He goes on to develop a relationship with a prostitute named Victoria (Mati Diop) and as that relationship progresses he suggests that Victoria use the access her job provides to undertake a risky maneuver designed to improve her lot in life.
The thing is, Simon’s actions very rarely affect his own life. It is the people around him that display the effects of his actions. The director Antonio Campos (Afterschool is his only previous feature credit as a director) takes his time setting up events in Simon’s life and then deals with the outcomes of those setups in a manner that is as uncaring as the behaviour of the central character. I realize all this adds up to a very ‘meta’ narrative and perhaps that was the intention all along but boy does it make one hate the type of person Simon signifies.
The truth is that it is totally imaginable that Simon would go on from all the quiet chaos he has caused in Paris to a fairly middle of the road existence back in his native America where he acquires the wife, kids, home with a white picket fence, and a designation of Vice President of Something Unimportant. While the contents of Simon Killer become little more than the by-product of an individual’s gap year. That it happens to have left death, financial uncertainty, and broken families in its wake are just the type of thing the wreaker of such havocs would acknowledge with a shrug, at best.
This movie looks great and the sound design (Micah Bloomberg, Matt Snedecor), cinematography (Joe Anderson), and editing (Babak Jalali, Zachary Stuart-Pointer) are of a calibre often lacking in far more expensive movies. The performances by all involved are of the kind that immediately indicate that the actors clearly responded to the material. This isn’t journeyman filmmaking on any level and the fact that the two leads, Corbet and Diop, have co-writer credits clearly indicate the depth of the collaboration on this narrative.
I look forward to watching more of Mr. Campos’s work. I just have to remind myself that it won’t necessarily make me feel very good afterwards.