Roman de gare
Why is it the French are so good with terrifying suspense? It’s seems they have the corner on that market right now. Remember Cache? The Vanishing (ok, that was half French)? What about Girl Cut in Two? Tell No One? It’s fantastic, and I love it. Claude Lelouch’s Roman de gare follows in the same suit and will keep you wondering ‘whodunnit’ ’til the last thirty seconds of the film. Don’t take that to mean this is an ordinary mystery/thriller, this is a thoughtful, suspenseful piece that is riveting.
While a plot synopsis is difficult because of the possibility of so many spoilers, I’ll be vague and say it’s about a man Louis, who’s played smartly by Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen, Amelie). He’s traveling across France, from Paris to Cannes. While we follow this man’s travels, there are also a few back stories going on, and we’re not quite sure who Louis really is. He could be a pedophile serial killer who charms his victims with magic tricks. He could be a high school teacher who decided to run away from his entire life: his job, wife, and three kids. Or he could be the secretary to one of France’s greatest literary giants. Of course, there’s much, much more to the plot, but this is the gist.
Academy Award-winning director Claude Lelouche has nearly fifty feature length films under his belt, and the experience he’s gained shines through brilliantly. His ability to take the unsensational, and pump it full of goosebump-inciting suspense is uncanny. He’s created a world in Roman de gare that’s not so different from our very own. The difference is, his world teeters on the edge of something very dark and ominous. At any minute, the fragile lives in the film could be plunged into disarray. It happens for some of the characters, others get off a little easier. Lelouche came up with the plot ideas, and veteran French writer Pierre Uytterhoeven who’s been writing for French TV and film since the sixties made a taut, interesting script that will feed your intellectual hunger, as well as your bloodlust. The actors were on par with the production team. Pinon keeps you guessing the whole time. Fanny Ardent is spectacular as the French literary celebrity. And Audrey Dana is brilliant as a possible love interest/victim/fan of Louis. Go into this movie with your expectations as high as you’d like. They’ll be satisfied.