Roman de Gare

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NEW YORK -- "Roman De Gare," a thriller by Claude Lelouch, features murder, duplicity, romance and revenge along with enough red herrings and plot reversals to intrigue suspense fans. It's a typically messy and eccentric film from Lelouch, whose later work has jammed stories and genres together to accommodate his idiosyncratic narrative style. That approach didn't work in a film like "Le Genre Humain: The Parisiens," but here the messiness provides the charm. Lelouch has dispensed with the normal tight structure that suspense requires, and decided to have fun playing around instead. The result is infectiously enjoyable.

"Roman De Gare," which Lelouch directed, produced, and co-wrote, opened New York's yearly French Cinema bash, Rendez-Vous With French Cinema. Samuel Goldwyn release the film April 29. The special brew of crime and romance with a bit of comedy thrown in will delight many and confound some, but it's certainly Lelouch's best work in a while.

Roman de gare translates as "railway station novel," and is a term for popular literature. The plot features a famous novelist, a jilted girlfriend, a ghostwriter, a serial killer and an honest cop. The main story hones in on the ghostwriter, but Lelouch isn't afraid to go where he wants, spending time constructing interlinked subplots for the supporting characters. Some things aren't how they seem, and some things are. In spite of the story's many lurches, Lelouch's hand remains steady throughout, and the denouement is satisfying and logical.

Lelouch has sometimes been described as a visual stylist in search of a serious theme. "Roman De Gare" doesn't provide that. Like a bestselling novel, it's plot-driven rather than character driven. It races along from event to event, character to character, at breakneck speed.

Well-rounded performances from Dominique Pinon, Fanny Ardant and Audrey Dana add breadth and depth. Lelouch's stylistic touches are downplayed, and bar a shot of a champagne glass floating listlessly in the sea, the visuals are straightforward.

He originally directed the film under a pseudonym (Herve Picard) to see how critics would react to the film without his name attached, but the secret was out before the Cannes premiere.

ROMAN DE GARE
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Les Films 13
Credits:
Director: Claude Lelouch
Writers: Claude Lelouch, Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven
Producer: Claude Lelouch
Executive producer: Remi Bergman
Director of photography: Gerard De Battista
Production design: Francois Chavaud
Music: Gilbert Becaud, Alex Jaffray
Costume Designer: Marite Coutard
Editors: Stephane Mazalaigue, Jean Gargonne
Cast:
Louis: Dominique Pinon
Judith: Fanny Ardant
Huguette: Audrey Dana
Florence: Michele Bernier
Mother Huguette: Myriam Boyer
Running time -- 103 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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