I always look forward to the Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center every year – this one is their 19th annual, and it runs from March 4 – 31.
Sébastien Japrisot is a very good late-20th-century French mystery writer whose work has been liberally adapted for film (The Sleeping Car Murders by Costa-Gavras with Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, One Deadly Summer by Jean Becker, with Isabelle Adjani, and A Very Long Engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet with Isabelle Adjani, to cite a few). The latest Japrisot fan to give him a shot is Joann Sfar, the French filmmaker and/or animator who gave us Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010) and The Rabbi’s Cat (2011). His film, The Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun (La Dame Dans L’Auto Avec Des Lunettes Et Un Fusil) (France, 2015) is an engaging and stylish piece of professionally-executed eye-candy, but a pretty serious failure as a credible mystery. Dany Doremus (Freya Mavor) is a young and trusted administrative assistant to Michel Caravaille (Benjamin Biolay), who needs a last-minute presentation typed overnight for a trip to Switzerland the next day. Caravaille invites Dany to do the work overnight at his lavish home while he and his wife Anita (Stacy Martin) attend an evening function. In the morning, Dany then takes the couple to the airport – in their vintage early-60s Ford Thunderbird – drops them off and, compulsively, strikes out on a little road trip to the south of France in her boss’ car. But she encounters an odd circumstance – a number of people recognize her from the day before; she, Dany, driving that car. She’s then attacked for no discernible reason, meets a man with whom she seems to have unfinished romantic business, and discovers a body in the trunk that wasn’t there when she left. Japrisot’s novel expertly weaves character eccentricities with Dany’s (and our own) credulity – there’s real narrative sleight-of-hand and skillful deception on the printed page. Sfar’s film, while artfully shot and designed, just doesn’t have that kind of depth to it – your first explanation turns out to be the only explanation. Sfar and the camera-loved Freya Mavor will fare far better in the future, but feel free to pass on this one now.
“The Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun” will be shown on Friday, March 25th at 2:00 pm and Thursday the 31st at 8:30 pm.