Crossed Paths Thrill in ‘Roman’

With immense talent to share with a world of film patrons across the globe, French film director, writer, cinematographer and producer Claude Lelouch has been steadily creating masterful works since the early 1960s. Spearheading the success of his future projects was the extremely well-received “Un Homme Et Une Femme” for which Lelouch took home several major awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Original Screenplay.
Lelouch remains relentless and returns with another originally- crafted work with “Roman de Gare.” From beginning to end, the audience is left guessing as the turbulent life of each character unfolds throughout the expository demeanor of the film. Lelouch makes the film an amalgam of varying forms of art and places them together seamlessly.
“Roman de Gare” explores layers of reflexivity as stories and scenarios surrounding the main protagonist, Pierre Laclos (Dominique Pinon) turn out to be the subject of an explosive novel by a revered author. Whether he is a ghostwriter, a pedophilic murderer or a husband abandoning a stabilized life of security, Laclos is obviously the key that ties everyone together. Just how and by what means is uncertain and having that question answered is what leaves the audience gaping in suspense until the very end.
The film opens with several vignettes that seem to occur simultaneously. Characters are just presented, and not introduced, and each person is seen in the midst of confusion and frustration about something unknown to the audience. The whirlwind of this montage allows for the film to immediately captivate the viewer until the explosive dénouement.
When a news radio announces the breaking story of an escaped pedophile that lures his victims by performing magic tricks, Laclos is seen procuring flowers from his seemingly empty trench coat for a young girl. While a woman is seen reporting her husband as missing, Laclos is seen barreling down the road in the rain. Laclos’ encounter with a young woman who was ditched at a gas station by her fiancé after an intense quarrel only heightens one’s suspicions as to who this strange character might be. The mystery unfolds and twists again near the end to deliver a closing sequence of heightened emotion, suspense and outright unexpectedness.
Pinon delivers a meaningful performance as the leading man. In a venue where his ability to wield the silver screen as the main character with “Roman de Gare” is obvious, he divorces himself from the expected secondary or supporting roles he has been seen in before. More commonly known to the film community in the United States is his role in director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 phenomenon, “Amélie.” Here, Pinon plays the sniveling, jealous and tormented lover, Joseph, who sits in the café making notes about womanly wiles. In “Roman de Gare” Pinon transforms into the leading man, upholding the role to its fullest degree with his ability to properly deliver the mystery surrounding this man of many identities.
The celebrity of Lelouch’s visionary filmmaking, however, had reached a lower point before the release of “Roman de Gare.” It was for this reason that while the shooting and preparation for the film took place, Lelouch worked under an assumed name. This theme continued throughout the filmmaking process and Lelouch found some of his own escapist desires reflected onto the screen through the characters.
“It’s true that after my last film flopped, I felt the unconscious need to hide myself at the time when I was going through one of my darkest periods,” Lelouch said in an interview on the Web site for “Roman de Gare.” “The idea of working in a discreet manner, without comments, without pressure, without the prior judgment of others, started to take root in my mind.”
It is the arising questions that propel the film to its close. Who is the mystery ghostwriter and does this person even exist? Who exactly is Laclos and what is his relation to each character within the film? A true mystery thriller of our time, Lelouch collects various genres to ultimately create a film that is a thriller from beginning to end.