Pinon is a talented actor, but only in a French movie could
a short, pudgy, aging man—with a face like a frog crossed
with a gourami—arouse the lustful admiration of the two beauties
played by Audrey Dana and Fanny Ardent. In Claude Lelouch’s
Roman de Gare, a mediocre literary thriller, Pinon plays “Louis,”
a man of mystery who we first see driving in the rain, listening
to a radio news program about a serial killer on the loose.
Ardent is Judith Ralitzer, a famous novelist who writes popular
mystery stories; her vineyard-owner husband supposedly committed
suicide. During the crosscut opening, Judith is interviewed
on a TV talk show and questioned by the police for murder.
At the same time, while Louis is driving, Huguette (Dana)
is having a nasty argument with her fiancée; the fiancée leaves
her by the side of the road and takes off in her car. She
is stalked, or befriended, by Louis, who offers her a ride
to her family’s farm. Louis eventually tells her that he is
Judith Ralitzer’s ghostwriter.
de Gare is partly a character study, and partly a suspense
story regarding Louis’ real identity. However, the characters
are not involving and barely likeable, and the tension is
contrived and boringly constructed. Huguette, a hairstylist,
pours out her heart to Louis, telling him at length all of
her faults, and that she drove her fiancée away because she
is overly emotional. Although Louis looks like a bum, he is
somewhat witty and tells Huguette that he is going to use
her as a character in Judith’s next novel. Huguette is charmed,
and invites him to the farm so he can pretend to be her fiancée.
Louis agrees, and assumes the persona of a doctor. Although
he only jokingly goes along with the ruse, Huguette’s country-folk
family members are impressed by his vivacity (the audience
will be much less so), and Huguette falls for him.
herrings are too lame to wriggle much. The great Ardent (who
gets the least amount of screen time) is wasted playing Judith,
a frail and shallow woman who is too busy being a glamorous
celebrity—her office is aboard a luxury yacht—to write her
own books. And because the interactions and interrelations
between the characters are mundane, there isn’t much tension
about who the murder victim might be, and even less about
what the murderer’s motivations are when the victim is revealed.
Even a trashy, pass-the-time mystery novel would be more diverting
than this middling attempt to mesh writerly and cinematic