Gone Girl Francaise is a Beautiful Fever Dream: The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun
Written by Erin Roux
A dream of a day at the sea in a paper-thin dress with long, spindly legs dancing to music turns into a visually stunning, murderous, nightmarish sequence of events in this sixties-inspired film noir.
Directed by Joann Sfar, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun is a visually stimulating and complex story of dualities and dreams versus reality through deliberate color schemes, music, scene cuts and a faux-predictable storyline. This modern twist on a story from the sixties is recreated and rife with symbolism, feeling like a pastel, arthouse version of the more mainstream film Gone Girl (2014).
Based off of the 1966 novel by French writer Sébastien Japrisot and inspired by the original film from 1970, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (original title La dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil) is a fever dream of disjunct scenes portraying beautiful pessimism, mystery, and fatalism through the solo road trip of the modelesque protagonist, Dany Dorémus (Freya Mavor).
From the beginning of the film, Dany repeats a dreamy mantra to herself in one of many monologues: “J’ai jamais vu la mer” - I have never seen the sea. While Dany is driven by her dream, the audience is driven and is able to move with the energy created by tension throughout the film.
Dany’s airy dreams are juxtaposed with harsh scene cuts, loud music, flash forwards, and split scenes with gruesome images, creating a feel of dangerous inevitability and leaving Dany as a vessel for ominous fatalism, that is now a driving force for her journey.
When Dany is given the responsibility of her boss’s (Benjamin Biolay) car for the weekend, she uses her dream to propel her away from the expected, embarking on an impromptu, solo road trip to southern France to view the sea. This sets off a series of seemingly fatal events, leading to a beautiful mental unraveling of the protagonist and of the audience, as well.
The dangerous situations that Dany meets because of her boss’s car, a Thunderbird the color of a robin’s egg, are again a sharp, tense representation of dreams versus reality. This is paired with more pastel scenes flooded with sunlight, along with loud, intense, unsettling music.
As Dany keeps driving, she meets a slew of people who claim to know her and to have seen her before, which leads her to physical and mental attacks and into a beautiful, romanticized descent across the French countryside into madness.
Along with this, the audience is granted beautiful cinematography, as scenes constantly switch color palettes to portray their moods: orange and warm colors versus blue, white, and other cold colors. This film is, overall, very aesthetically pleasing due to these deliberate color choices; the main actress’s bright red hair against a cool blue background is a striking development of tension for viewer.
Symbolism is important to the story as well. The protagonist spends a lot of time talking to herself, looking at herself in the mirror, a constant self reflection through dialogue. Along with this, we see a lot of taking off of the ever-important glasses, trading them for sunglasses, taking those off and so-forth, thus creating an intrapersonal duel that becomes the focus of the story. The following of the literal and metaphorical “road” as it connects to fatalism is important as well.
At the beginning of the film, these techniques may seem very predictable to try and create the mood. The beautiful actress is questionable, and the color schemes are not altogether necessary to the film, it seems, yet these are all deliberate choices used to draw up unnecessary questions from the audience to hide from the fast-moving fatalist story that is constantly working in the background. The questioning from Dany and from the audience propels the film forward and allows for a shocking ending.
Seeing the film in the Gene Siskel Film Center provided for a fairly academic and cultured experience, as the festival brought in a large European crowd, anxiously anticipating the film.
This French psychological thriller is pretty, provocative and pleasing; when leaving the theater, you are left wondering how so much occurred in roughly an hour and a half. Expect to enjoy the cinematography, and to have a dueling, questioning internal dialogue. The missing pieces throughout the film begin to appear, and perhaps seeing the film again with a new perspective would create an entirely new experience.
Reviewed at 19th Chicago European Union Film Festival, Gene Siskel Theater, March 31st, 2016. Running time: 93 MIN. (Original title: “La dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil”)
A Magnolia Pictures Production. Directed by Joann Sfar. Written by Gilles Marchand, Patrick Godeau. Produced by Patrick Godeau, Karen Monluc.
Freya Mavor, Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano, Stacy Martin
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