The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Magnolia Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (20th April 2016).
The Film

Myopic and introverted Dany Dorémus (Not Another Happy Ending's Freya Mavor) entertains romantic fantasies about her boss Michel Caravaille (The Pack's Benjamin Biolay) who invites her to his home to complete the revisions on a report that he must present in Geneva over the holiday weekend. The working holiday reunites her with former secretarial agency colleague Anita (Nymphomaniac: Volume 1's Stacy Martin), now Michel's glamorous wife. While the couple are away at a black tie event, Dany makes herself at home in the well-appointed settings and Anita's borrowed clothes, falling asleep before she finishes the report. The next day, Michel asks Dany to accompany him and Anita to the airport and drive his Ford Thunderbird back to their country home. Initially reluctant to drive the flashy vehicle, Dany relents when both Anita and Michel say she is being childish and tiresome. Getting a handle on the machine and slipping into a glamorous persona under the admiring eyes of passersby, Dany impulsively decides to take a detour to the seaside. When she stops to pick up a daring swimsuit, she has a mystifying encounter with the proprietress of a café (Kidnapping Mr. Heineken's Vera Van Dooren) who returns the coat she forgot at home the previous day, explaining that she left it in the café earlier that day. The woman is insistent despite Dany's insistence that the woman must have mistaken her for someone else. When Dany stops at a service station along a lonely stretch of country road to have the tank filled up, her elation at the admiring stares of the truckers and mechanics is cut short when she is violently attacked in the restroom and has her right wrist fractured by an unseen assailant. When she relates her story to the concerned witnesses – none of whom saw anyone else enter or exit the restroom – she is shocked when the service station manager (Midnight in Paris's Thierry Hancisse) believes she made the story up, telling her that she was there the night before when he fixed her broken tail light and that her hand was injured then. Speeding off into the night, Dany starts to question whether she is dreaming or going mad. When a traffic cop recognizes her, again from the previous night and confirms the story of the broken tail light and injured wrist, Dany decides to investigate by staying overnight in the same hotel to which the officer escorted "her" the night before. The hotel receptionist (Toto the Hero's Alexandre von Sivers) was off the night before, but Dany's name is in the guestbook. Dany soon finds that the only person she can confide in is Marseilles-bound hitchhiking oil worker Georges (Do You Like Hitchcock?'s Elio Germano), but even he may not be who he seems. And now there's the dead body in the trunk...

With no faith in the admittedly Brian De Palma-grade contrived script – adapted by (Red Lights) and producer Patrick Godeau (Europa) – comic artist turned filmmaker Joann Sfar (Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life) treats his filming of Sébastien Japrisot's novel The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (previously adapted in 1970 by Anatole Litvak) into a visual and aural "trip" that offers dazzling "sixties fetishist" visuals and music at the disservice of a fine cast reduced to eye candy props. Although a more diverting adaptation than Iain Softley's drab take on Japrisot's Trap for Cinderella, the film "all style" approach would have worked if the director had worked up any interest whatsoever in the increasingly obvious plot turns rather than just using them as launching points into the next flashy montage of fantasies, flash-forwards, sliding panels, and splits-creens (more comic book and Pablo Ferro circa The Thomas Crown Affair than De Palma). The heroine's surname has been changed from Longo to Dorémus, the latter so reminiscent of dormouse that one expects Sfar at any moment to pipe in Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" amidst the aural smokescreen of Agnes Olier's innovative score (one of the film's best elements alongside the cinematography of The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears's Manuel Dacosse). While the ending cannot help but disappoint despite Sfar's attempts to enliven the belabored explanation visually, it is likely that another filmmaker's more mannered approach and semblance of respect to the material could have resulted in a film with some pleasures to savor rather than a stream of images that flit by and fade from memory not long after.
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Video

Magnolia Entertainment's BD25 offers a strong 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen transfer of this digital production given the largely subdued colors (apart from the reds from Dany's hair to decor and wardrobe accents) and satisfyingly deep black levels of shadows as well as the wardrobe of the ambiguously malevolent Biolay and Martin in their introductory shots.
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Audio

Audio options come in French and English-dubbed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 options. The mix is largely front-oriented with some atmospheric surround effects, only becoming enveloping when music dominates the track. The English dub is so flat in terms of vocal performances as to further emphasize the superfluousness of much of it. Subtitle options include English, English (narrative), English SDH, and Spanish.
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Extras

"The Man in the Car with a Pen and a Camera" (26:44) is a rather frustrating interview with director Joann Sfar in which he conveys his admiration of the source novel and his dislike of the script, railing against the "tyranny of the screenwriter" before and since the French New Wave (stating that the use of the Steadicam over editing in contemporary film reasserts the primacy of the script while seeming to dismiss the contributions of the director, cinematographer, and actor in staging such scenes). Much more interesting is his discussion of his working methods, sketching out the entire film as storyboards and making a visual diary of the film by replicating the intended angles while location scouting, as well as how the filming deviated from the plans as he discovered where he could say something with one shot instead of ten. He does state that he was the second choice for director, the first presumably being either co-screenwriter Marchand - who had previously helmed Who Killed Bambi? and Black Heaven - or possibly Dominik Moll (who had directed Lemming and With a Friend Like Harry, both co-scripted with Marchand). In "The Paintings of director Joann Sfar" (2:45), the director displays some of the paintings of the cast that he did during the shoot. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (1:26) as well as trailers for other release.
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Overall

Visually and aurally diverting but nevertheless unmemorable eye candy.
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The Film: D+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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