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Best-selling author Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardant) is researching unlikely places to find characters for her next novel. As luck would have it, a serial killer with a penchant for magic tricks has just escaped from a high-security prison, providing the perfect source material for an intricately plotted, moody mystery. At the same time, her ghost writer Pierre (Dominique Pignon) gives a lift to a stranger, Huguette (Audrey Dana) who has been left stranded at a gas station after a huge row with her boyfriend. She and her life become Pierre's inspiration for the next Judith Ralitzer novel - but he's no longer satisfied to stay in the shadows, which sets up a clash of wills with the determined author.

Review by Louise Keller:
Tension oozes from every scene in Claude Lelouch's intriguing drama in which we meet a bunch of seemingly unconnected characters whose fates intersect. There's a novelist in search of a story, a teacher who's abandoned his wife and kids, a serial killer on the run, a hairdresser with a vivid imagination and a ghost writer on the prowl. Lelouch manipulates not only his characters, but us his audience as we are whisked away on a journey in which the bends in the road are sharp and unexpected. Wavering between frustrating and brilliant, Roman De Gare offers complex storytelling and Lelouch makes us question and doubt each character. One moment I found myself mesmerised; the next I had disconnected totally.

The film begins in dramatic black and white, when we meet Fanny Ardant's famous novelist Judith Ralitzer being questioned about a murder. In flashback we leapfrog to the vineyards in Burgundy, where Judith is plotting her new thriller with a plot involving the US President and poisoned bottles of Burgundy. What is more beautiful than the perfect crime? Two perfect crimes. We are suddenly in a car with a quarrelling couple. There's a news flash on the radio that interrupts Gilbert Becaud's songs announcing the rapist paedophile is on the loose. He's called The Magician because of the magic tricks he plays for his victims. Ardant's Judith is a tough woman of mystery, the total opposite of Audrey Dana's vulnerable coiffeuse Huguette, who collects hair of the famous people (like Princess Di), whose hair she washes. But it's Dominique Pinon who steals the film as the incessantly chewing Pierre Laclos, and of whose character we are never sure.

From the countryside where sheep graze lazily, there's a sharp contrast as we board the luxury yacht moored at Cannes. Lelouch surprises us at every turn and we never know where the story is going to take us. We are never sure what to make of any of the characters, nor are any of them especially appealing. But one thing is sure - you will be kept guessing until the very end, even if, like me, you were not totally convinced every step of the way.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Magic tricks, indeed . . . veteran French filmmaker Claude Lelouch tries to play some tricks on the audience with this oblique thriller in which the escaped rapist/pedophile and the ghost writer Pierre (Dominique Pinon) are handy magicians. The trick only lasts a short while, but Lelouch seems to have stubbornly retained the sleight of hand even though he can't quite make it work.

Oddly enough, the story needs no such contrivances to be an effective piece of drama, with terrific performances from Fanny Ardant as the haughty novelist reliant on her ghost rider to keep her in fancy yachts in the South of France and a personal staff. Dominique Pinon's rueful, unique face works well to set him apart from the crowd both literally and figuratively, and his canny performance is riveting. Audrey Dana is great as the young woman with low self esteem and a string of failed relationships, who forms a strong bond with Pierre when she senses that he likes her. A man who isn't put off her bad habits and oversized temper.

Leloch invests the screenplay with layers and supporting characters for a textured result in which we are always looking for additional information or meaning - like Pierre's sister going through a strange break up when her husband goes missing and she falls for the policeman.

The thriller elements that become the crucial threads in the third act are a bit clunky and the resolution is not convincing, either dramatically or romantically, but the film is nonetheless an entertaining journey.

Published March 26, 2009

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Mixed: 2

(France, 2007)

CAST: Fanny Ardant, Dominique Pignon, Audrey Dana, Michele Bernier, Zinedine Soualem, Boris Venture,

PRODUCER: Claude Lelouch

DIRECTOR: Claude Lelouch

SCRIPT: Claude Lelouch

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gerard de Battista

EDITOR: Charlotte Lacoeur, Stephane Mazalaigue

MUSIC: Alex Jaffray

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Francois Chauvaud

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 6, 2008




DVD RELEASE: March 28, 2009

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