Following a rough break-up with his girlfriend, twenty-something New Yorker, Simon (Corbet) travels to Paris where an acquaintance, Carlo (Ronchi) has allowed him to make use of his apartment. Simon spends days walking the city, seemingly attracting negative attention from many locals. One night he wanders into a brothel where he meets prostitute Noura (Diop), who seems to show him more affection than is normal for such a situation. A few nights later, Simon is attacked by a group of youths (after possibly provoking them on purpose) and turns up at the brothel, telling Noura he has nowhere to stay. She invites him to stay with her and quickly falls for him romantically. It soon becomes apparent he's far from the innocent abroad she mistook him for.
Last year, Campos acted as producer for Sean Durkin's feature debut, 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'. Here, the roles are reversed, with Durkin producing Campos' follow-up to 2008's 'Afterschool'. Between the two of them, they seem to be forming a two-man American new-wave. While the rest of the American indie film community seems intent on boring us with dull "dramedies", Campos and Durkin ignore the restrictions of their budgets to give us low budget movies of a quality not seen since the Australian New Wave of the seventies. Like those Aussie flicks, their movies feel geographically unique; not quite American, not yet European, but borrowing the best elements of both schools.
Like 'MMMM', 'Simon Killer' is a "snippet" movie. Rather than a traditional three act structure consisting of a beginning, middle and end, we find ourselves thrown in at the deep end of the narrative. At first Simon appears to be a sympathetic victim of his own romantic nature, struggling to adapt to an intimidating alien city. It's a cinematic con-trick, deftly played by Campos and his committed, perfectly cast, leading man. Over the past decade we've grown accustomed to seeing Anglo-Saxons suffer at the hands of Europeans, be it physically ('Hostel'), psychologically ('Berberian Sound Studio'), or culturally ('Vicky, Christina, Barcelona'), but here Campos and Corbet flip things around. Early on, Simon appears to be suffering from mistreatment at the hands of Parisians, both aggressive males and apathetic females. As things progress, and Campos' constantly tracking camera begins to allow us to see his subject's face, rather than following him from behind to conceal his true nature, we realize Simon, not Paris, is the film's true antagonist.
Campos isn't a film-maker prone to spoon-feeding his audience, and his long takes (one unbroken static shot on a dance-floor is a stunning representation of Simon's coiled aggression) may well test the patience of less committed viewers. Those who appreciate a film which allows you to fill in the blanks will be richly rewarded. The American New-Wave has arrived!