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Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Hélène (Carole Bouquet) are driving from Paris to Bordeaux to pick up their children from summer camp. It is the holiday weekend and the roads are thick with traffic. The car radio sends alerts of traffic fatalities and delays, and the news of a dangerous fugitive at large. Antoine and Hélène have their own problems. Antoine, irritated by Hélène's lateness and pedantic manner, has been drinking and looks for any opportunity to stop by the roadside to have another scotch. Exasperated, Hélène warns Antoine she will leave the car and catch the train, if he stops again. He stops at a bar but when he returns to the car, she has vanished.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Red lights mean you must stop. Ignore them and you're in grave danger. There are plenty of red lights, both real and symbolic, in this adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel, and while it's a thriller by genre and a road movie by content, it's a love story by definition. But a savage one. It's pretty resistant to labels, though, even those stuck on it by film critics who see Hitchcock behind the wheel.

Whether true to the novel - and in what way - I cannot say, but as a film, it has a loaded story about a husband and wife intersected by a major coincidence that trumps the characters in a final reveal. (No, I won't reveal it.)

But what intrigues me most is the unresolved event in the opening scenes, the event which we believe drives the rest of Antoine's actions. He is waiting for Helene, his beautiful, high powered lawyer wife in a café (to drive to summer camp and pick up their two kids for a family summer break) and she's late. Business phone calls, she claims, but he sees her arrive across the intersection, getting out of a car with a man. His buoyant, loving mood turns to impotent, unspoken and repressed jealous anger. It makes him terse and drives him to drink unsafely, causing her to leave the car to take the train.

He is unsure whether she's hiding a betrayal, and this builds and enlarges his feelings of insignificance as a man, as a husband; hence the drinking. This in turn leads to the great coincidence on which the resolution pivots. But the film's edginess is retained by never revealing what if anything Helene was doing.

The film is a sum of its many minute, internal parts, all written on Jean-Pierre Darrousin's face.

Two great performances - the excellent Darroussin is hardly ever off the screen - working with an uncompromisingly well observed script about marital conflict make the film riveting, even if its occasional flaws are visible. Director Cédric Kahn's great achievement is the way he compresses tension into every scene, and his occasional ambiguity, leaving us to complete the picture in our head.

Published December 26, 2005

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Feux Rouges

CAST: Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Carole Bouquet, Vincent Deniard, Charline Paul, Jean-Pierre Gos, Mylène Demongeot, Sava Lolov, Eric Moreau, Igor Skreblin

PRODUCER: Patrick Godeau

DIRECTOR: Cédric Kahn

SCRIPT: Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, Cédric Kahn, Gilles Marchand (novel by Georges Simenon)


EDITOR: Yann Dedet

MUSIC: (non original) Claude Debussy

PRODUCTION DESIGN: François Abelanet

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney/Melbourne: February 17, 2005




DVD RELEASE: December 6, 2005

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