Red Lights

Director: Jean-Pierre Darroussin

France| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 mins.

With L’Ennui, his philosophical tale of amour fou, and Roberto Succo, a truly disturbing serial killer picture, Cedric Kahn is already established in the front rank of current French ?lmmakers. This tense, assured Georges Simenon adaptation keeps him there. In a road-movie-as-nightmare, a bickering married couple prepare to take to the autoroute during the annual summer exodus from Paris, southbound to pick up their kids from camp. The balance of power clearly lies with the imperiously elegant Carole Bouquet, an executive who’s the household’s main breadwinner, rather than Jean-Pierre Darroussin, her working stiff of a hubby, who’s had a hard time staying on the wagon and isn’t allowed to forget it. Simmering tensions reach boiling point out on the road, as he makes a series of illicit alcoholic pit-stops to calm his nerves at the expense of his driving skills. Until, that is, he staggers out of one establishment in the middle of nowhere to ?nd . . .
It would be unfair to give anything else away. Suf?ce to say that Darroussin’s evening is about to get a lot worse, what with reports of an escaped killer on the loose. Kahn excels at slowly tightening the knot as the suspense builds, but it’s rooted in a psychological dilemma familiar from all our relationships—that we sacri?ce our freedoms for the sake of our loved ones without completely shaking the desire to cut loose. Some will read more ambiguity into the ending than others, but the meat of the movie is out there on the highways and byways, where the extraordinary use of Debussy’s orchestral music adds to the feverish anxiety.

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