While it was made in 2009, King Of Escape is getting a new UK release now following the success of director Alain Guiraudie’s last movie, Stranger By The Lake. King Of Escape is in some respects a very different movie, although you can certainly feel the echoes between the two films.
King Of Escape is the sort of film that’s likely to divide audiences, as you really need to ‘get’ it. If you don’t you’re likely to think it’s weird, somewhat inexplicable and more than a little nasty. However the key is to understand that while this appears to be a comedy set in rural France, in many respects it’s a subversive fantasy taking place somewhere where the rules don’t quite match up to what we expect.
Armand is a gay tractor salesman whose only desires have been for men – until, that is, he meets a teenage girl called Curlie, the daughter of his rival. He falls for the teenager, even though this causes him a lot of confusion (and performance issues on his first attempt at consummation) and marks the start of a major a midlife crisis. His fixation with the young girl, who feels the same way as he does, results in him having to go on the run, with the police and the girl’s father on his trail.
Mixed into that is a strange drug that makes men super-horny and the fact that this is a place where it’s perfectly normal (and seemingly expected), that a lot of the time all straight men will leave their wives behind, it they have one, and go have sex with one another in the woods.
It’s all a bit peculiar and some of it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but there’s also something oddly intriguing it. Some will undoubtedly think that calling this a ‘comedy’ is rather misplaced, because if you don’t accept its subversive and strange aspects, it is a movie that will come across as somewhat perverse and disturbing, with shades of things it would be easy to interpret as misogyny and condoning sex with a minor. Undoubtedly though that’s not the point. It wants to take us into a heightened reality where Armand’s crisis and the farce it leads him into are extreme, but in a world of constant hypocrisy and secrets his actions seem almost reasonable. It is essentially trying to take us to a place where the ‘wrong’ things seems right because of the society around it.
It isn’t 100% successful though, and the fact it gives such short shrift to the teenage girl is problematic as treating her as a rather shrill cipher when the issues surrounding he are so important will make it easy for some people to feel there’s actually something a little nasty about King Of Escape.
Ultimately I couldn’t help feeling that while this movie may have been brought out of mothballs due to the fantastic Stranger By The Lake, as it doesn’t fully work and is more an interesting idea than a truly good movie in its own right, there was probably a reason it’s taken until now to get a proper UK release.
Overall Verdict: A peculiar movie that’s likely to divide audience. Some will completely miss the humour and find it all a little weird and with a bad aftertaste, however some will undoubtedly respond to its subversive dark humour and idiosyncratic take on secrets and sexuality.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac