Magazine article The Christian Century

Roman De Gare

Magazine article The Christian Century

Roman De Gare

Article excerpt

Roman de Gare. Directed by Claude Lelouch. Starring Fanny Ardant, Audrey Dana and Dominique Pinon.

Claude Lelouch's 1966 film A Man and a Woman remains the North Star of romantic French movies. It also remains his obit-leader, since Lelouch has done nothing in the past 42 years to approximate that runaway success.

Not that he hasn't tried. He has directed more than 30 films in the interim, including a fascinating 1995 version of Les Miserables, set during World War II and starring French film icon Jean-Paul Belmondo. But Lelouch seems to have been relegated to the second tier of French directors. He has not accepted this reshelving with a shrug. He believes that critics continue to resent his success with A Man and a Woman.

To prove his point, he released Roman de Gare under the pseudonym Herve Picard to see if an unknown director might receive more consideration than a supposed has-been. When Roman de Gare was embraced by the critics and festival audiences, Lelouch felt vindicated--and immediately put his own name back on the credits before the critics had a chance to change their minds.

This backstage intrigue is important because Roman de Gare (which loosely translated means "airport novel," a novel for light reading) addresses such issues as ghostwriting, mistaken identity and secret lives. And the film's themes are reflected in the way that the story is told.

Roman de Gare centers on three characters who are never quite what they appear to be. The first is Judith Ralitzer, a hugely successful writer of airport novels who lives and breathes the life of the jet set (she is played by Fanny Ardant, a grande dame of the French cinema who worked with film director Francois Truffaut and later married him). The second is Huguette (newcomer Audrey Dana), a hot-headed woman who goes into most relationships knowing they are going to fail. She is the mistress of self-fulfilling prophecies, angry at her disloyal suitors but more furious with herself. The third is a mysterious man (Dominique Pinon) who may be a college professor who's recently abandoned his wife and children. Or he may be Judith's secretary or the ghostwriter of many of her novels. …

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