Red Lights (15)
Time Out saysIt’s Paris, summer, and like everyone else Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Hélène (Carole Bouquet) are preparing to head south once work’s done. As she’s behind schedule, he consoles himself with a couple of beers; by the time she arrives, his anxieties over inevitable traffic jams are supplanted by irritation at her lateness, insecurity over her job (she’s a lawyer, he’s an insurance clerk) and doubts about her fidelity. After a while on the road, resentment has arisen, tempers have flared, and Antoine – fuelled by further surreptitiously quaffed booze – is driving like a lunatic. So despite the dark and the distance still to travel to the Basque Country, he really shouldn’t be surprised when, emerging from a bar, he finds a note saying Hélène’s gone ahead on the train. But should he worry, curse her, or celebrate his freedom?
Kahn’s adaptation of Georges Simenon’s tale of marital strife confirms that he’s one of the best French directors at work today. True, this is never quite as strong as ‘Roberto Succo’ (and the final moments are even rather weak), but it remains a marvellously intelligent blend of stylish suspense and perceptive psychological study. The leads are remarkably good, with Darroussin effortlessly holding our attention in every single scene; also very effective are Vincent Deniard as a hitcher who gets to play a crucial part in the couple’s fortunes, and Charline Paul as a friendly barmaid. But it’s Kahn’s control of mood that best distinguishes his films, and music, colour, composition, camera movement and cutting are all here masterfully combined to create a genuinely nightmarish atmosphere of unease. Agreeably nasty.