(2007)4Craig ButlerIn French, Roman de Gare is slang for an "airport novel," the kind of enjoyable but disposable little read that one takes along to while away the time on a long flight. Claude Lelouch's film fits that description, but it's such a beautifully done and almost perfectly realized little trifle that it ends up as something much more impressive. Lelouch has crafted an intricate, intriguing plot that is a minor marvel in itself. He has then gone the necessary distance to populate it with characters who are not only interesting and engaging (even when we suspect them of some acts of evil) but also surprising. Surprising on two levels, really; on one level, they surprise us by turning out to be not who we really think they are, but on another more important level, they surprise us by saying or doing little things that we don't quite expect. In other words, they act human, and this is Roman's real achievement. Lelouch directs with expert assurance and a flair that can be either quiet or show-off-ish, as the situation requires. He's aided immensely by his cast. Dominique Pinon, his face both squashed and elongated, is exquisite, his performance finely honed and perfectly modulated, making us want to flee from his perceived menace at one moment and to cuddle him the next. Fanny Ardant, stunningly striking physically, ensnares us with her sheer power and charisma, whether we want to tell her off or comfort her in our arms. And Audrey Dana is a delight as the woman caught, in a strange way, between these two. Thrilling, appealing, and full of delectable twists, Roman is a terribly fun movie.
Claude Lelouch's thriller Roman de Gare (aka Crossed Tracks) features a number of characters and a timeline that skips back and forth, keeping the audience guessing as to how these characters all relate to each other. Fanny Ardant plays a novelist named Judith whose famous works might have been ghost-written by a serial killer dubbed "The Magician" for his habit of performing acts of prestidigitation in front of his victims. Early in the film, the police quiz her about her relationship with the criminal. Other characters include a hairdresser (Audrey Dana) who offers to give a ride to a stranger who may be the killer.