> Volume 6 > Number 31


Cédric Kahn

Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Carole Bouquet
Vincent Deniard
Charline Paul
Jean-Pierre Gos

Release: 20 Aug. 04

Red Lights


Last year I was part of the unexplainable Nashville contingent that embraced Gespar Noé’s Irréversible. We all agreed that it was a compelling storytelling experiment that showed the film Memento should have been. We reveled in our simultaneous respect for the achievement and disdain for the feelings the film brought in us.

I was especially convinced by Noé’s grasp of the lies he could tell by having the film told in reverse. The false happy ending became a sick joke -- the contentment of the characters were façades waiting to be destroyed in the preceding scenes. Many people asked those of us who supported Irréversible if the film would still be a good film if Noé had told it chronologically. I never believed so because I thought the key to the overall affect of the film was in its novel structure. I now have Red Lights to prove me right.

This isn’t to say that Red Lights is as sadistically reprehensible as Irréversible, but it does share a common story. However, instead of telling everything in reverse, the narrative thrust is forward while the tension remains at the beginning and the speciousness remains at the end. The film never has a clear influence because the whole thing is too hard to believe, and the complacency of director Cédric Kahn to change his cynical outrage into veiled optimism is particularly distressing.

A French film about a couple driving along the countryside -- car wrecks all around them as the country seems to fall apart -- has so much promise. Instantly, memories of Godard’s final masterpiece Week-end begin to dance in the mind of a cineaste. But these possibilities remain unfulfilled as the film turns into a race for a progressively drunk French businessman (there is wonderful use of La Defense in the film’s opening) trying to catch his wife as she aborts a plan to join him on a drive to pick up their kids at camp. His decline into a drunken stupor is, at times, marvelously captured by Jean-Pierre Darroussin, but none of it really matters when the film seems mostly intent on getting to the surprise climax (a surprise that actually pretty predictable). The most inventive bit is Kahn’s use of the drunken blackout to leave the audience and the protagonist in the dark for nearly thirty minutes (and these thirty minutes are the best of the film), but the rest is no more interesting than spending a night with a nauseous drunk and his fumbling to get to a point

©2004, David Perry,, 30 July 2004