Thursday, April 14, 2005

Red Lights

2004, France, directed by Cédric Kahn (original title: Feux rouges)

It's interesting to wonder what Hitchcock might have made of this - although Cédric Kahn shows considerable expertise himself with what the French like to call the drame psychologique. The set-up, from a novel by Simenon, is worthy of the master, with an undercurrent of tension from the first moments of apparently ordinary domesticity, and there's a chilly, beautiful wife for good measure. The film opens as a Parisian couple are about to head towards Bordeaux on their summer holidays: the children have been sent ahead to a camp, and papa et maman get on the road at roughly the same time as the rest of France, which doesn't help their already fractious relations.

Jean-Pierre Darroussin is exceptional as the aggrieved husband, skewering a certain male insecurity quite perfectly: he's an inadequate man unable to deal with his beautiful wife's professional success, and his attempts to manage his jealousy are largely self-destructive. The couple's constant car-bound arguments eventually lead his wife to continue her journey alone, when the film takes a much darker turn, as Darroussin first acts out his apparent 'liberation' and then realizes he might have bitten off rather more than he expected. As with Hitchcock, most of the frisson is very much inside the viewer's own mind - and it's made the more powerful by the realism of Darroussin's morning-after predicament. There's a fabulous solo scene where he makes a series of increasingly panicked phone calls, the kind of thing where a lesser actor might start to chew the scenery, while the gathering tension is perfectly managed, and manipulated, by director Kahn.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States