Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Terrific Thriller

A killer has escaped from a prison in France. What makes the news particularly chilling is that the killer is a magician who seduces his victims - young girls - with tricks of the trade before killing them.

We never get to see the killer or what happens to him but the fact that he is out there somewhere suffuses the Claude Lelouch-directed movie 'Roman de Gare' with menace and suspense that make it a terrifc thriller to watch.

A bestselling mystery novelist (Fanny Ardant) has a secret: Her books are actually the work of an unassuming, diminutive ghostwriter (Dominique Pinon). Along with a flair for words, the ghostwriter also happens to be a ... magician.

In search of ideas for the next blockbuster, the ghostwriter witnesses a couple having a furious verbal fight at a gas station in a Paris suburb. The man suddenly drives away, leaving the woman (Audrey Dana) stranded. He offers her a ride; she refuses. Her fiance does not return; after several hours of anguished waiting, the woman reluctantly agrees to be driven to her destination by the ghostwriter.

The suspense builds, the mystery deepens. There is no high-tech gimmickry, no car chase. A gun is fired a few times but that is more for comic effect than anything else. The dialogue is witty and punchy and the humor only underscores the dark possibilities.

Our lives are not what they seem. Violence lurks just around the corner. The facade shatters when we least expect it. The confluence of angst, ambition, envy, love and the hunger for justice create undercurrents that carry only the naive and the innocent to safety.

Laden with pathos and glowing with superb performances, I found 'Roman de Gare' a thriller of uncommon power and artistry.

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