Simon Killer is a thoroughly engaging character study from director Antonio Campos. It’s a deliberately paced piece – slow and dreamlike – but eminently watchable.
Brady Corbet plays Simon, a young American in Paris, taking some time-out following the break-up with his long-term girlfriend. He befriends Victoria (Mati Diop), a young prostitute who wants to get enough money together in order to improve her way of life. As the pair’s unlikely friendship develops, we begin to see that the charismatic Simon may not have a firm grip on reality.
First-up, I have to say that the thing I dislike most about Simon Killer is the title. It’s terrible and it ruins the film’s narrative momentum. You can’t have the word ‘killer’ in a title without giving your audience the expectation of killing. They’ll want it and wait for it and they’ll only be happy when they get it. Aside from that, Simon Killer is an excellent, thought-provoking dramatic-thriller.
Brady Corbet turns in an impressive performance as Simon, the 20-something American student trying to pick-up the pieces of his broken life. Corbet’s in the tricky position of delivering a lead performance that has to make Simon sympathetic, while he must also slowly unravel the thread of his sanity. Corbet manages to make Simon multilayered – in lesser hands the character could have been very one-note. In an odd way, Simon Killer is much like J.D Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye. Both deal with unstable young men making their way through a large city. However, Salinger’s Holden Caulfield isn’t as sociopathic as Campos’ Simon.
Antonio Campos makes the most of his wintery Paris setting. His camera follows Simon through the city’s streets and we only catch a glimpse of its famous attractions. I wouldn’t say that Campos shows the gritty underside of Paris, but he doesn’t shoot the film in a glitzy Hollywood way. This is a real city with shades of light and dark, much like the film’s protagonist. Simon Killer’s synth-filled soundtrack adds to its dreamlike quality. Like Drive and the similarly themed (but much less subtle) Maniac, the music helps draw the viewer in to the main character’s isolation. It’s emotional shorthand which helps connect visuals, story and character.
Simon Killer is a powerful piece of independent cinema. It’s a dark look at the human psyche that is as thought-provoking as it is stylish. It is impressive.
The masters at Masters Of Cinema again offer up a wealth of extras on this blu-ray of Simon Killer. We get interviews galore, an interesting behind the scenes and The Last 15 – a short film by Antonio Campos. A neat package.