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The successful novelist Judith Ralitzer is interrogated in the police station about the disappearance of her ghost-writer. A serial-killer escapes from a prison in Paris. A missing school teacher leaves his wife and children. In the road, the annoying and stressed hairdresser Hughette is left in a gas station by her fiancé Paul while driving to the poor farm of her family in the country. A mysterious man offers a ride to her and she invites him to assume the identity of Paul during 24 hours to not disappoint her mother. Who might be the unknown man and what is real and what is fiction? Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
ROMAN DE GARE has a lot going for it. Start with one of France's biggest stars, "jolie/laid" (beautiful/ugly) Fanny Ardant. Add Domique Pignon, the brilliant and quirky circus performer turned actor who starred in DELICATESSIN, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, and AMELIE. Add Audrey Dana as Hugette, a lovely "rocker chick next door" type & hairdresser wannabe, who gives a knock-your-socks-off performance in one of the most interesting victim roles written for a woman in years. Add a fantastic, complex, multi-layered mystery-thriller script that holds your interest and is tight-as-a-drum.
Toss in a serial killer on the loose, a husband who has walked out on his job/wife/and child, a ghost writer for a famous author, a handsome policeman in love with an overweight housewife, a murder, and a brother/sister magic act. Finally, the core of this film takes us to the kind of French countryside we never see... French "hill country" that is like a ramshackle farm in West Virginia, where education is poor, and the house a modified stable.
Instead of being a mess, all of these elements pull together so simply in a way that feels everyday and natural; because ultimately this film is about the complexity of modern life.
For those who like to look deeper, we have the significant, meaningful themes of "wanting to run away from your life," and the modern inability to know who anyone really is - the essential modern mistrust. Ardant's character doesn't even know who she is herself, and it is shown in persistent yet such subtle ways throughout.
For those who don't like to look deeply, the good news is that you don't have to. ROMAN DE GARE glides along and keeps you engaged throughout. It keeps you guessing... we know we are seeing one of the books being talked about, but we don't even know for sure which book we are watching.
The film SWIMMING POOL mined similar territory in the literary world and has a mind-bending ending that alters your perception of the whole film. We are set up for that kind of ending here, and I left feeling disappointed. It is only now, several days later that I feel this is one of the most deft and well orchestrated films I've seen in years. We go from a yacht in Cannes to a highway rest stop, and there is no "comment" on the social contrasts, it just is. To have it all feel organic and natural is the real magicians art - the work of a confident and mature filmmaker.
The production values are as high as you would expect with big stars in the leads. The costuming touches say so much. The hairdresser's trashy trendy high-heeled boots, Ardan'ts frankly fake wigs and obvious foundation makeup are the touches that speak to the inner personality. The fact that "Hugette" is the smallest woman is worth noticing.
Really modern. Really complex. Really entertaining. Really Real. See it.
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