It's a quiet lake, the kind of unassuming Eden you might happen upon by accident while out on a hike. Beams of sunlight rest softly on the glassy surface, as if finally finding a welcome pillow after a long journey through space. Serenity stretches from the endless blue sky all the way to the woods that surround the water.
Naked men mark the beach like disorganized chess pieces on a massive earthly board. Some sleep and some swim. Others disappear into the green thicket beyond to find a companion.
This is the pristine and slyly subversive locale of Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake , a brilliant thriller about the disorientation of mind, body and soul.
We see this place through the eyes of Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), a handsome young man who develops a connection with two very different individuals while spending time at the lake. There's Henri (Patrick d'Assumçao), a pudgy mentor who sits beyond the boundaries of the cruising zone, an outsider even in this community of men pushed to the fringes of society. Michel (Christophe Paou) is a completely different beast, a handsome shark with dubious moral character who casts a spell over Franck the second he glides out of the water
When Franck witnesses a murder, the codes and boundaries of the secluded place begin to break down, engulfing all three men in a tense series of interactions framed by the sublime façade of their surroundings. "The woods aren't so big," says a local police investigator, illuminating the dangerous overlap between what is public and private in a haven for individuals pushed to the fringes of society.
Stranger by the Lake —which opens Friday, March 14, and screens for one week at Hillcrest Cinemas—may echo the suspenseful craft of Hitchcock and Chabrol, but it stands alone as a singularly haunting study of possession run afoul.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me : This documentary follows the legendary Broadway stage actress as she tries to launch another one-woman show at age 87.
Generation War : Big-budget World War II film tells the story of five young German friends who must make compromises and sacrifices as Berlin turns into an overtly fascist state.
The Grand Budapest Hotel : Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson's latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters. See our review on Page 24.
The Lunchbox : In Mumbai, thousands of lunchboxes are delivered every day, thanks to a famously efficient service run by couriers. When one of these orders is delivered to the wrong address, the mistake inadvertently connects an aging businessman and an unhappy housewife.
Need for Speed: Based on the popular video game, this action film follows an ex-convict (Aaron Paul) street racer who vows to catch the man who set him up years before.
One Chance : Paul Potts (James Corden) is a shy, bullied shop assistant by day and burgeoning opera singer by night. Following his dream of being a professional singer, Paul decides to defy the odds and enter the ultimate music competition, Britain's Got Talent .
San Diego Latino Film Festival: Parties, workshops and more than 150 films only begin to scratch the surface of this 11-day event that will run March 13 through 23 at UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Shirin in Love : This Iranian-American romantic comedy follows an absent-minded young woman who, despite her arranged engagement to a successful Los Angeles plastic surgeon, falls in love with a stranger who lives in a lighthouse in Northern California.
Stranger by the Lake : Set at a pristine lake that doubles as a cruising spot, a young French man begins a torrid and potentially dangerous love affair with a handsome stranger. See our review on Page 24.
Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club : The title really does say it all.
uwantme2killhim? : A British teenager promises his online girlfriend that he'll doing anything for her, not knowing this statement will get him embroiled in an elaborate crime that draws the attention of MI5.
One time only
Animal House : Go back to the glory days of college with this raunchy classic that inspired many a fraternity brother to act like a fool. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Cesare Deve Morire : Inmates serving life sentences are given the opportunity to put on a theatrical rendition of Julius Caesar . Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas.
The Princess Bride : Rob Reiner's classic fairy tale about a princess named Buttercup (Robin Wright) and the brave knight (Carey Elwes) who rescues her from imminent danger. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at Arclight La Jolla.
The Forgotten Space : Based on Allan Sekula's 1995 book Fish Story , this documentary explores the impacts of globalization on farmers, maritime cargo workers and low-wage laborers. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 14, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire : The saga of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) continues in this sequel to the 2012 mega-hit based on the novel by Suzanne Collins. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Squid and the Whale : A couple's bitter divorce pushes their two sons into a battle of loyalty and trust in Noah Baumbach's biting dark comedy. Screens at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
The Terminator : This lighting-speed action film made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star and launched a sci-fi series that's resonated with audiences for nearly three decades. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16, at Arclight La Jolla.
My Tiny Universe : Hollywood gets skewered once again in this dark comedy about a big-time producer who lets his personal life destroy his professional successes. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 17, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Nebraska : Alexander Payne's black-and-white drama finds an elderly man (Oscar nominee Bruce Dern) embark on a journey to redeem what he believes to be a winning sweepstakes letter. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
Pearl Peep's Movie Choice: It's Pearl's choice, so don't worry and just show up. Whatever it is will screen at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Black Pond : When a stranger dies at their dinner table, an ordinary British family scrambles to bury the dead body. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, at the Scripps Ranch Public Library.
300: Rise of an Empire : More Spartan chest thumping and skewering, this time in retaliation for the fallen soldiers featured in Zach Snyder's 2006 gore-fest.
Bethlehem : An Israeli secret-service agent attempts to get a Palestinian informant to incriminate a high-ranking terrorist who's about to carry out an attack.
The Face You Love : Ed Harris and Annette Bening star in a drama about a woman who falls in love with a man who bears a striking resemblance to her late husband. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
If You Build It : Two designers and a group of students embark on a radical woodshop project in a Midwest town desperately in need of rebuilding. Ends March 13 at the Ken Cinema.
The Jewish Cardinal : Jean-Marie Lustiger grew up in a Jewish household and converted to Catholicism at a young age. This documentary explores how one man maintained his cultural identity even after he shifted religious beliefs. Screens through March 12, and again from March 24 through 27, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman : Animated adventure about a father and son who invent a time machine, travel back to witness famous historical events and then find themselves racing to repair the past and save the future.
Visitors : Godfrey Reggio's ( Koyaanisqatsi , Powaqqatsi ) experimental black-and-white documentary explores humanity's growing alienation from the physical world. Ends March 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Oscar-Nominated Short Documentaries: See all five of the films nominated in the Short Documentary category before the Academy Awards airs on Sunday, March 2. Screens at the Ken Cinema.
Hidden Moon : In this romantic comedy from Mexico, a beautiful woman (Ana Serradilla) makes a dramatic appearance at the funeral of a wealthy Southern California patriarch, forcing his son (Wes Bentley) to travel south of the border to investigate. Ends March 6 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Jimmy P : Benicio del Toro stars as Jimmy Picard, a Native American Blackfoot who's diagnosed as a schizophrenic by his military doctors. When a French anthropologist (Mathieu Amalric) is called in to begin psychotherapy sessions with Jimmy, the two men forge a bond that allows them both to heal. Ends March 6 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Non-Stop : Liam Neeson's seasoned air marshal deals with a series of mysterious threats aboard a transatlantic flight.
Son of God : Jesus, another biopic.
In Secret : Set in 1860s Paris, this intense melodrama stars Elizabeth Olson as a sexually repressed young woman trapped in a loveless marriage who finds hope in an illicit affair with a family friend. Ends March 6 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago : Documentary that follows the stories of various pilgrims as they attempt to cross Chile on foot. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Alaska: Spirit of the Wild : Venture north into the great wilderness and explore the harsh but beautiful conditions of Alaska, in glorious IMAX. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Pompeii : Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson sets his sights on the city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. for his latest muscle-bound action epic in 3D.
Omar : Adam Bakri shines in this complex, Oscar-nominated thriller from Palestine about a young man caught in a web of deception in the West Bank. Ends March 13 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
3 Days to Kill : CIA agent Kevin Costner's got—you guessed it: three days to kill his last target or his innocent daughter will die.
Tim's Vermeer : Tim Jenison is a mad inventor who's become obsessed with Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's verisimilitude. In this documentary from Penn & Teller, he decides to embark on a multiyear journey to prove that Vermeer used optics to paint such lifelike paintings.
The Wind Rises : Reportedly director Hayao Miyazaki's final film, this glorious animated biopic about Jiro Horokoshi examines one man's perilous tunnel vision as he designs war planes for the Japanese government during World War II.
About Last Night : Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy play best friends grappling with the highs and lows of new romantic relationships. Another romantic comedy just in time for Valentine's Day that will make single people cringe with disgust.
Endless Love : A pampered and isolated rich girl falls in love with a humble valet in this heated romance that's destined to make The Notebook seem sober and realistic. Nicholas Sparks may even roll his eyes at all the slushy swooning.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Robocop : It's hard to believe Hollywood had the gall to remake Paul Verhoeven's 1987 masterpiece, but there's confidence to be had knowing Brazilian action filmmaker Jose Padilha ( Elite Squad ) is at the helm. Crossing our trigger fingers.
Winter's Tale : Based on Mark Helprin's popular novel, director Akiva Goldsman's adaptation follows a burglar (Colin Farrell) who falls in love with an heiress as she dies in his arms. Good thing he has the power of reincarnation.
The Lego Movie : That movie adaptation based on a classic toy set you knew was always coming but didn't think would actually get made. Well, it did, and it's here.
The Monuments Men : A museum art historian (George Clooney) recruits a platoon of unlikely soldiers to rescue art masterpieces from the Nazis. Co-stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman.
Oscar Nominated Shorts: See the films in the category no one ever guesses right: Live-action and animated short films nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. Ends March 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
That Awkward Moment : When a friend is devastated by a recent breakup, three young men (Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan) vow to stay single for as long as possible. Of course, since this is a romantic comedy, things don't go according to plan.
The Great Beauty : A disillusioned novelist traverses modern Rome looking for epiphany in Paolo Sorrentino's gorgeous and surreal art film, which is a testament to physical surfaces and emotional depth.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit : Tom Clancy's favorite CIA analyst turned action hero gets his very own origin story, which involves a Russian plot to take down the U.S. economy. Chris Pine assumes the role made famous by Harrison Ford and denigrated by Ben Affleck.
The Nut Job : No nuts, no glory. So goes the tagline for this animated film about an outcast park rodent who must survive the harsh realities of the city after being banished from the park. It was only a matter of time before the squirrel population was properly represented in Hollywood.
Ride Along : Has Kevin Hart fatigue set in yet? The pervasive comedian stars in this action comedy with Ice Cube playing an angry cop and his future brother-in-law out to test his masculinity.
August: Osage County : A dysfunctional Texas family reunites when its troubled patriarch (Sam Shepard) goes missing, uncovering a barrage of dark secrets and regrets. It's based on the play by Tracy Letts and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper.
Her : A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his new operating system (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) in Spike Jonze's tender and moving sci-fi romance.
Lone Survivor : Four Navy SEALs are behind enemy lines in the mountains of Afghanistan, fighting an army of Taliban insurgents. It's based on the failed Operation Red Wings of June 2005 and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster.
The Wolf of Wall Street : Martin Scorsese's sprawling comedic look at the rise and fall of Wall Street huckster Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who became an infamous figure in New York City in the 1990s.
American Hustle : Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in David O'Russell's retelling of the infamous Abscam sting established by the FBI in order to capture corrupt politicians and gangsters in the late 1970s.
Nebraska : Aged retiree Woody (Bruce Dern) is determined to collect his winnings after receiving a phony sweepstakes letter, eventually dragging his reluctant son (Will Forte) on a road trip that'll change both of their lives. Alexander Payne's latest is a melancholic ode to family and the Midwest. Ends March 6 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Philomena : Comedian Steve Coogan takes on a more serious role as a cynical journalist who ends up helping an elderly woman (Judi Dench) search for her long lost son. Oscar nominations are a certainty.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire : Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself once again fighting to survive the titular death match that has become a necessary evil in the dystopic future.
Dallas Buyers Club : In 1985, a drunken rodeo clown Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughy) learns he has HIV. Seeing an opportunity to stave off his own death and make some money, he begins smuggling unapproved drugs in from Mexico.
12 Years a Slave : Abducted and forced to work on a Southern plantation, free man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejifor) experiences the horrors of slavery in Steve McQueen's stirring period-piece drama.
Mysteries of the Unseen World : This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.