Fleeing New York from the poisonous fall-out of a bitter break-up, vulnerable college student Simon (Brady Corbet) heads to Paris. Shacked up in a cousin's flat, he aimlessly wanders the streets before being tempted into a sex club. There he meets Victoria (Mati Diop), a prostitute fleeing an abusive marriage. After a mugging, Simon counts on her charity... and she takes him in. Immediately, the two embark on an erotically charged course that will involve blackmail, violence and betrayal. Director Antonio Campos (Afterschool) has crafted a disturbing chronicle of deception and lust based on the unreliable eyewitness account of Corbet's charming sociopath.
Flustered American college graduate Simon (Corbet) arrives in Paris peddling a sob story of shattered romance destroyed by his fickle girlfriend of five years.
Flat-sitting for his French cousin, the hesitantly charming student spends his days exploring the streets utilising his rudimentary French and nights unsatisfactorily locking onto porn sites thanks to a dodgy wi-fi connection.
After a few days of aimless wandering and, well, er, he's tempted into a Club Privé - a sex club - where he is introduced to - and takes advantage of the services of - elfin hooker Victoria (Diop), who gives him her number.
Soon he's a regular visitor to her small flat and - when he's mugged outside a railway station - is taken pity on and allowed to stay in an arrangement which quickly turns intensely sexual.
So far, so formulaic. Yet already director Antonio Campos has been littering broad hints that Simon may not be what he claims. His apparent awkwardness masks a steely resolve while his means of gaining Victoria's trust hinged on a self-inflicted wound and not a random beating.
As the dynamic of whore and john gradually realigns in his favour, he quietly suggests that she begins lucratively blackmailing her married clients by filming them on her mobile. After a painfully ineffective start (the mark was a flic) they persuade one customer to hand over the cash. And then a chance meeting changes everything.
Superbly acted and seductively crafted, this second feature from Campos (after his disturbing debut Afterschool) neatly utilises a pulsing electro-pop soundtrack and technically disorientating camera work to plant the viewer firmly in Simon's luridly off-kilter demi-monde.
After Funny Games US and Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene, Corbet is the psychotic go-to guy for a complex role that demands both boy-next-door affability with a sadistically unhinged sexual dark side.
It's by no means an easy watch but it's a refreshing departure from the current glut of slasher movies that make the mistake of thinking more gore can ever replace the feeling of icy dread that you've been played by a madman.