HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun
HTS Overall Score:67
The best way of looking at “The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” is as a 93 minute music video with splashes of film noir and mystery thrown in to boot. In the credits director Joanna Sfar proudly agrees with critics of his work for lambasting the film as a nothing but a music video, and strangely enough the eclectic director seems to relish that fact. Adapted from a very VERY famous French crime novel written by Sébastien Japrisot (which had also been adapted into film during the 1970s. After being a graphic novelist for many many years, Sfar broke out into the film world with his breakthrough film “Gainsburg: A Heroic Life”, which shot him to almost instant stardom. Deciding to look for something new, Sfar found the screenplay for “The Lady in the Car…” and dove into the filmmaking process as he adored the original novel. Personally I can see what he’s going for in the strangely edited and created film, but at the same time I understand why the movie was reviled by critics, as it is the end result that people just aren’t fond of.
You’re already aware that something isn’t exactly kosher in the state of Denmark, as Dany (Freya Mavor) is asked to come out to her Boss, Michel (Benjamin Biolay), and his wife’s estate for a day or so and transcribe some documents before he and his wife Anita (Stacy Martin) go off to Switzerland for a few days. While nothing is overtly SAID to que the audience into the uncomfortableness, there are enough visual cues and oddly edited storyboard flashbacks/forward/fantasies to get you to realize that there is some odd sexual tension between Dany and her boss. Everything goes according to plan until Michel and Anita leave for the weekend. The very opening sequence shows Dany wishing to go to the sea, and in a moment of passion, Dany decides NOT to turn the car around and instead heads directly towards the ocean where she can have a bit of a weekend by herself.
Here is where the story suddenly changes to a mystery. She begins to run into people along the way to the ocean who know they have seen her the day before, even though Dany has no memory of this. A woman who owns a café knows up and down that Dany left her coat there the other night. A roadside service station attendant fixed her tail light the night before, and even a motorcycle cop tells the frustrated young woman that she was pulled over their before as well. Frustrated and confused Dany runs into a mysterious man named “George”, someone who holds a few of the puzzle pieces, but also a bit more mystery as well. Any more of the script told and I think that it would detract from any enjoyment derived from the movie, as what happens next is the most important bit of the whole film.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68722[/img]Joann Sfar’s rendition of “The Lady in the Car with glasses and a Gun” is surprisingly surreal and very strangely edited for modern viewers. The visual nature of the film shows us a world where the rotary phone still exists, and old Thunderbird’s are well at home in the time period. Nothing is every called to attention or pointed out that we’re living in the 60’s or 70’s, but the strangely desaturated and flat looking image would fit right in with said time period. Other cars and trucks along the way would decry the notion of being in the 70’s, as they are much more modern and chic, but the way that Sfar presents things makes you honestly not sure where or WHEN the movie takes place.
Another interesting point is that the movie is definitely shot to look like a black and white film with color, with special interests and attention paid to lines, framing and certain shades of contrast that you would normally see in a colorless film. It’s strange and odd, but after viewing the plot nothing is out of place really. I what Joann Sfar was AFTER, but sadly I can’t agree with the end result as the incoherent plot is just too muddled to really enjoy. It’s like a music video, where you see caricatures and archetypes played out on screen, but after posing and smiling for the camera you get tired of the worn out characters and the lack of coherent plot is tiring arfter the first 30 minutes.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68730[/img]As I mentioned before, Belgian cinematographer Manuel Dacosse shot “The Lady in the Car…” as if it were a black and white film. Colors are rather desaturated and flat, except for a few splashes of blue and red along the way, and contrast levels are overly exaggerated on all ends of the spectrum. Shot 100% digitally, Sfar creates a beautiful and well detailed image that shows off some fantastic looking up close shots and lovingly casts a soft shadow across the rest of the image. Black levels are serviceable, but slightly rough and hazy at times. There is also a very gauzy and hazy look over the entire opening 20 minutes and comes back here and there in the film, which solidifies the notion that Joann Sfar is trying to recreate the old 70’s “euro thriller”. It’s a good looking image and well crafted, but one that may seem a bit strange to modern audiences.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68738[/img]I’m not sure whether it is budget related, or done on purpose, but the 5.1 DTS-HD MA French language track is rather front heavy. Vocals are crisp and clear, with no balance issues and the meandering pop songs and old timey songs filling out the back end a bit more. Otherwise there really is very minimal surround usage throughout the track and even the English dub is much the same way. LFE pops up here and there to add some weight and fill out said songs, but once again. This is mainly a front loaded experience with a few additions to make it a full 5.1 track.
• The Man in the Car with a Pen and a Camera
• The Paintings of Director Joann Sfar
• Theatrical Trailer
• Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment
I have to give mad props to Sfar, as his editing and graphic novel background make for a beautifully rendered picture. Unfortunately that beautifully rendered picture can only go so far in making a complete story and sadly that part has been left on the back burner. There are moments of true greatness in the muddled mystery (which DOES get explained, or MOSTLY explained by the end of the film), but not enough to really redeem it from the overly flashy and stylistic mess on screen. If you are intrigued by the source material, I highly recommend reading the original novel, and if you must watch the film I would give it a rental before you commit.
Starring: Freya Mavor, Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano
Directed by: Joann Sfar
Written by: Patrick Godeau (Screenplay), Sébastien Japrisot (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 95 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 12th 2016
Buy The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Rental at Best
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