Campos - 2013 07 18 - Simon Killer


France 2012
Directed by António Campos
Running time: 101 minutes
Format: 35mm

Nystagmus is a condition of involuntary eye movement, more poetically called “Dancing Eyes.” Even though the effect of the dance is rarely noticed by the dancer, it’s highly noticeable to those watching the ocular gyrations. The naive speculator presumes that more visual information is being processed at a faster rate than the average observer. It’s the kind of rapid ocular flutter that I aspire to while watching a visually inspired film – a lepidopterist’s gaze. It’s how I attempt to register light on the periphery. Perhaps David Simon’s ball-busting detectives from The Wire illustrate it best (please forgive me the rare television reference):

Detective Bunk: You know what you need at a crime scene?
Detective Kima: Rubber gloves?
Bunk: Soft eyes.
Kima: Like I’m suppose to cry and shit?
Bunk: If you got soft eyes, you can see the whole thing. If you got hard eyes – you staring at the same tree missing the forest.
Kima: Ah, zen shit.
Bunk: Soft eyes, grasshopper.

There is a sadistic, hard-eyed fixation to António Campos’ thrilling second feature, SIMON KILLER. It opens with Campos’ lens surveying the vast blue Parisian landscape from on high. It’s a sluggish, deliberate swivel that he’ll use to force our gaze at pivotal points in the film. Sustained and intense, it mirrors Simon’s miserable groans (which he’ll later misidentify as cries) as he tries to heal the pain of a harsh breakup.

While Campos travels with Gaspar Noé in documenting some terrifying brutalities of French urban nightlife, it’s Campos’ subdued characterizations that elevate Noé-esque terror into Campos-esque horror. Simon could be your friend or your boyfriend or your son. Most of his stories check out. He’s smart and empathetic. Until he isn’t. There’s something menacing in his gaze – something anatomically, geometrically misaligned.

“It takes a muscle to fall in love,” croons the dazzling synth reggae track by Spectral Display as we survey the Parisian landscape. Perhaps we should ask ourselves: which muscle and is love its only function?

18 July 2013