Saturday 27 May 2023

Cannes 2023 - Strangers by Night by Alex Lutz

Alex Lutz is not well known outside France but he has built a varied and interesting career after making a known for himself on TV on a well known comedic show called Le Petit Journal. Taking on mainly some comedic roles in films, he also won the French Film Award for best actor for the more dramatic Guy in 2018. He is in Cannes to present Strangers by Night that is the Un Certain Regard closing ceremony.

Strangers by Night belongs to a much beloved sub genre but one that is tricky to tell, one we could call "Before Sunrise - two strangers form a bond and spend the night talking and connecting". Although here the characters are not two wide-eyed students discovering the world but a man and a woman in their middle age and the chance encounter is not due to some fleeting glances in a train across Europe but rather a raucous argument on the Paris metro. This unlikely starts promptly lead them to make love in the deserted underground corridors a few minutes later. With the argument then passion out of the way, they can finally take the time to get to know each other across a night in which they walk around Paris. 

There is something very theatrical about Strangers by Night which, despite the characters never staying put in the same place for very long, could indeed easily be a play. There is a certain artificiality in the dialogues but a pleasing artifice, despite the very realistic setting where Paris is not the postcard representation nor the dangerous and gritty city it is shown as in many films. It feels like a real, living and diverse city where our two leads come across a whole gallery of characters and a certain kind of nighttime adventure. 

If it works, it is thanks to the wonderful chemistry between Karin Viard and Alex Lutz which makes this nocturnal odyssey a joy to share with them. At times hilarious when they gatecrash a student party, other more melancholic when what could lead to a future of possibilities does not have quite the same potential at their age, Strangers by Night feels a little exposed here in Cannes and there is a questionable narrative choice at the end but it is charming and eminently likeable, just like its leads.

Review by Laurent de Alberti

Star rating: 

Official Selection, Un Certain Regard

Strangers by Night. Directed by and starring Alex Lutz. Also starring Karin Viard...

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