26
Jan
17

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, 2015/2016 Movie Review

****

Call me a cab and find a shrink. I may need some help sorting out my feelings about “The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun,” a French film starring Scottish actress Freya Mavor, and the mad people behind it. I am as much aroused and intrigued as I am puzzled and disgusted…which–from my understanding of the director’s explanation–seems on par with French cinema.

[NOTE: This film is either closely or loosely based on a novel I have not read, a novel the director claims is “insane” (though he loves it) and about a woman raised by a nun who still speaks to her as a conscience. My views are based solely on the DVD film and the interview I watched subsequently. And, I’d recommend watching both at least twice to have any chance of grasping every detail…unless you are just so damn observant that you miss nothing the first time through.]

The story seems to take place in the mid-1970s, resembling the TV series Mad Men. Dany, a tall, timid and short-sighted secretary (a 23-year-old Catholic school girl version of Donna from “That 70s Show”) is asked by her ad agency boss to type up his rough rewrite of some fifty-page “report” by the end of the day. Concealing her sexual fantasies, she is willing to tackle the task but confesses to a lack of typing speed. The boss offers her a chance to complete the work at a house shared by his wife and young daughter, provided she tells no one. Dany quickly begins to imagine him leaving his wife and child to toy with her. On top of being a daydreamer, she has a bad habit of “complicating” matters with questions which quickly get on the nerves of the boss and Anita (the wife and Dany’s former secretary school rival who may have “fooled around” with her “ages ago” which is actually a little over three years before the story begins).

When the report is finished, the boss makes one more request of his most trusted secretary. Accompanying the family to the airport, Dany is left with a teal Thunderbird and the “simple” chore of driving it back to the family’s Paris home. While the boss and his family are away, Dany decides to play, motivated by a tempting voice in her head. She takes the car south, in hopes of spending a few hours at the beach, but soon finds herself running into people who claim to have seen her earlier, a flirtatious stalker and amassing evidence that may convict her of murder. Whether or not the ending is a happy one remains debatable.

Though fairly brilliant in terms of cinematography (aside from maybe one or two poorly lit scenes), casting and music, the intentionally “trippy” and disorienting short story is not unlike something Quentin Tarantino would devise, except, thankfully, lacking his usual excess of gore. It has many of the touches I long to put in a similar movie: the fashions (though some, including the frequently featured “dress,” are a bit revealing), the moody lighting and music, the variety of camera shots, the comic book panels (without being panels), the bookish beauty with hidden sides to her personality and a backstory (though not flushed out in the movie) to explain her behavior, the scandalous/suspicious encounters, the well-devised plot of the villains played out (not perfectly) in the background, etc. There’s a somewhat magical flow to the whole product which some have said is a 95-minute music video. I prefer to think of it as a daring perfume ad (which could be ironic, considering the protagonist works for an advertising agency).

Even after two viewings, I have some questions. One, why can’t a half-dozen auto mechanics catch a man either entering or exiting a restroom at their gas station/cafe? Two, why would a religious young secretary hook up with a guy who admits to disabling her (borrowed) car and daringly climbs inside with her before she knows his name (considering she aspires to hooking up with her boss, unless both men are nothing more than a night of fun to her)? How does she stay so calm with the guy when he’s obviously dangerous in more than one scene? How does such a damsel in distress get from the wilderness to a truck stop, track down a missing car and then walk some unknown distance down a seaside road alone to find said missing car? Where were the parents of the boy at the beach? And, why would he want to climb in the car of a strange older woman when he knows something is amiss with the trunk?

While I can accept the nudity and sex as typical of adult films and more commonly accepted in non-American films (which is a bit surprising, considering the general impression I get of Americans being comfortable with casual sex and rape), the amount presented in the film was still more than I care to see. I also didn’t care for a young actress consistently playing with a religious necklace between her sexually daring exploits. [This may have been included to reflect the character’s childhood in the care of a nun (if the movie is sticking true to what the director says of the novel). But, viewing the film without such knowledge, I felt the necklace was unnecessary and misused. If it provided moments of conscience, I question Dany’s morals.]

The “naught bits” justify what some have said of the director. Or, at least, I assume what the director said of those who question his work is true and agree with the sentiments. He says people accuse him of “getting off” on his actresses and abusing certain camera shots. Well, despite his claims to the opposite, he DOES seem to play with women in a manner I’d say is either erotic or pornographic. He prefers the term “fetish.” His little collection of paintings and admission to designing pornographic comic books–the former displayed in his enclosed interview for the film–do not depict him as an entirely honest man, either.

Let me pause right here to address more about the interview portion of the DVD. Why is it certain (if not all) French “artists” speak with contradicting thoughts? Why is something “utterly useless” obviously valued by the person? Why is trash worth discussing at any length? Why build something just to tear it apart? And, why does the explanation for one idea spring off in some other direction that seems completely unrelated? [I have tried drumming up an example–without jotting down every word the guy says–but it just gives me a headache.] Is this simply some attempt at being modest (versus boasting)? Am I right in being puzzled? Or, is someone doing a poor job of translating the interview?

Just as I fuss and fume over some of Tarantino’s work, this little tale *directed* by Joann Sfar is a steamy pot of artistic potential. It’s not utter trash…nor is it a blissful masterpiece. But, with a little more editing, I’d be inclined to describe it as the latter. [Why do some artists poop on their creations?]

This is a DVD I’d keep on hand for reference material but would have a bit of a hard time watching regularly/casually (particularly with anyone who is not a lover). And, I’d consider working with those responsible for the camera shots/editing, provided they can cope with making some changes to their “routine.” While I might share some of the same fetishes, I would do more to keep the nudity, sex and violence blurred/veiled or–better yet–suggested (versus “in-your-face”).

[And, as I often say, if I am going to dabble in nude artwork, I’d keep such pieces private between me and my lover. It feels wrong to paint (or draw) nude and/or provocative images of someone working with me who is not (my lover). It is inexcusable to claim you are protecting actresses while displaying nude and/or scandalous images of them on publicly released material.]

“The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” (2015/2016)
Directed by Joann Sfar
Editted by Maryline Monthieux and Christophe Pinel
Original “opera” music by Agnes Olier

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