If only you try, there are a number of solid, recent crime films from foreign countries waiting to be discovered and devoured, from Sweden's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels to Australia's "Beautiful" and "The Square." Add Italy's "The Girl By the Lake" to that list.
Based on a Karin Fossum novel, 2007's "Lake" quite literally leads viewers down a path, only to catch them off-guard and head toward an entirely different destination. And that's just the first several minutes.
Aging Inspector Sanzio (Toni Servillo, "Il Divo") is called to the titular site to investigate the titular corpse of Anna (Alessia Piovan, "Nine"), a young woman who was not only beautiful, but active in hockey, babysitting and life in general. Why anyone would want to kill her "? not to mention arrange her dead body with care "? is beyond Sanzio and his fellow authorities.
But little by little, suspects begin popping up, suggesting the crime wore quite a personal face. Director Andrea Molailoi keeps viewers calm, yet riveted as the procedural unfolds in a quiet, well-crafted fashion. Rich with shots of a placid North Italian village, the photography is beautiful, while Teho Teardo's modern score is an atmospheric delight.
If the film can be accused of being slight anywhere, it's in fleshing out the character of Sanzio at the expense of those around him. We don't get to know his co-workers well, nor his troubled daughter. Still, Molailoi keeps the screws tight on the story, so it has no chance to bore. You'll have to read subtitles to enjoy "Lake" on DVD, but that's only a warning if you're the kind of person who abhors subtitles.
An exquisitely executed murder mystery, "The Girl by the Lake" took home 10 statues at Italy's version of the Oscars, and it's easy to see why. "?Rod Lott