Also with: Jacqueline Guenin, Bernard Verley, Marianne Groves, Aurore Clement.
“Taxi de Nuit” is a pleasantly diverting thriller set in Paris in late 1999, by which time the City of Light has evolved into an AIDS- and unemployment-weary police state. Tube programmers should flag this taxi down.
Setting the modest but effective tale in the near future presents ample opportunities for well-incorporated, often wry social commentary about everything from the decline of smoking to the state-enforced triumph of family values. Mothers wishing to divorce are forcibly returned to their spouses, gainful employment is mandatory, political activism is outlawed. Society runs smoothly at the expense of personal freedoms.
Story is set during one long October night. Plucky young blonde Laure Marsac breaks up with an unseen b.f. and hails a cab driven by 20-year vet Bruno Cremer. However, having left in a huff without her wallet, Marsac lacks the cash to pay her fare, plus the all-important “code card” for transactions and identity checks.
Cremer gets Marsac a room in a hotel where his black African buddy Maka Kotto is the night clerk. Pic soon demonstrates that, if Gallic standbys tobacco and alcohol have been curbed, racism and anti-semitism haven’t. Didier Bezace, an underground communist the duo met earlier, shows up uninvited, drawing police.
Arrested on a trumped-up morals charge, protagonists are hauled off to the hoosegow and given blood tests. Pic implies the cops are not above planting HIV-positive status on a suspect. Suspenseful visit to the police precinct, and a more disturbing sojourn at the Big Brother-ish Ministry of Security, give the central quartet a chance to show solidarity and buck the system.
The film sustains a sinister tone, which the music reinforces, by adjusting key aspects of behavior without altering the physical appearance of the city. Formal modes of address (“monsieur,””madame”) are still entrenched, but a sense of malevolence reigns.
With her waiflike beauty, Marsac contrasts nicely with the grizzled Cremer. Other characters are close to stereotypes but keep things moving at a watchable clip. Lensing dishes up plenty of otherworldly blue-and-yellow-hued night atmosphere.