Roman de Gare
The masks that we wear while we
deal with others and the impossibility of guessing
what is going on in other people's lives are the intriguing backdrop in this
supremely twisty mystery melodrama.
Ironically, the film was created by long-prolific French director Claude
Lelouch – who is best known in the States for the classic 60s love story
Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman) – but
filmed and sold under an alias. Lelouch, who came clean about being the auteur as soon as the film
hit the festival circuit, says he just wanted to prove that he could sell a
film without his own reputation to push it over the top.
Of course, this low-profile may have also had something to do with
distancing it from the failure of the venerable director's aborted trilogy
La Comedie Humaine – which was abandoned
after only the first two films were made.
Despite the fact that the film was supposedly directed by
someone named Herve Picard, it was evident early on
that the film bears many of the stylistic touches of Lelouch.
The film is called Roman de Gare – which translated literally means
railway station novel – but is usually more loosely translated as a pulp
novel, the kind you pick up in a shop for a long
train trip and toss when you
get there. It even has certain slight
similarities to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, such as a twisty-turny
plot, a timeline that sometimes jumps back and forth and intelligent
dialogue and surprisingly smart characters who are
connected in surprising ways.
However, that is where the similarities end.
Roman de Gare is more intellectual and has much less brute violence.
It is structured in a much more mainstream manner –
and thus is sometimes both less thrilling and less
Roman de Gare centers around three
disparate characters. We are never exactly sure what exactly is their
in fact, even if there is any – until the very
There is Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardant), a famous
novelist of limited talent whose latest book turns out
significant artistic leap. Right as she is at the apex of her career,
she is approached by the police, who suggest she may have been involved in a murder.
there is Huguette (Audrey Dana), an angry and needy thirty-some hairdresser
(or is she a prostitute?) who gets dumped at a service plaza in the middle
of nowhere by her fiancé when she is taking him back to her family farm to
meet her parents, brothers, sisters and daughter.
The star-struck Huguette
also may or may not have once styled the novelist's hair.
Finally, there is Pierre (Dominique Pinon), an odd little man who hangs out
at highway service plazas, showing magic tricks to little girls, quietly
observing and talking to strangers.
a school teacher who has just abandoned his wife, the ghostwriter
for the famous mystery novelist, a pedophile
serial killer on the loose – or
All of the characters and conflicting threads of the
story eventually weave together to make for a satisfying and clever tale.
Even if the story is
somewhat purposely slight, the film is gorgeous and the acting is stunning.
Amelie, Alien: Resurrection) makes an offbeat leading man but makes the
best of the opportunity, in turn charming and mysterious. Ardant
(Callas Forever, Ridicule, The Libertine) brings the novelist an icy
ambition. Staying up with and
perhaps even besting the more well-known castmates is Dana
– the role of
Huguette has earned Dana a Cesar (the French equivalent of an Oscar) as the
most promising new talent.
For a movie
that was made to be disposable entertainment, Roman de Gare really
sticks with you.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: April 10, 2008.