Roman de Gare: Claude Lelouch Enjoyably Tweaks His Image

Claude Lelouch's A Man and a Woman may be one of the silliest love songs in the canon of French fluff, but 42 years on it gets a beguiling makeover in this new soufflé from the director, who seizes the day both to trade on and shake off his enduring reputation as France's reigning romantic airhead. Roman de Gare—which loosely translates as "airport novel" and was written and directed under the pseudonym Hervé Picard—is stuffed with fakers who run the gamut from hapless to charming to vaguely sinister. At the center is an unlikely couple: a celebrity-mad provincial neurotic (the appealing Audrey Dana) who's either a hairdresser or a hooker, and a pug-faced stranger (Delicatessen star Dominique Pinon) who's either a serial killer, a teacher on the run from his wife and kids, or the ghostwriter for a famous novelist (played by Fanny Ardant). Slyly bookmarking the early audience hit that also got him slimed by elite critics, Lelouch shoots his characters through rainy car windows or chugging back Burgundy on a fancy yacht. But this goofy tale of self-emancipation, a love story made by a mature man wise to the possibilities of the improbable, is also a thriller littered with winks in the direction of Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1947 Quai des Orfèvres, whose police inspector happened to be a certain Monsieur Picard. 

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