Returning to helming for the first time since 1991’s “Cold Moon,” thesp Patrick Bouchitey crafts a cold thriller of Hitchcockian ambition that consistently falls short of the master’s rhythmic build-ups and watertight scripts. “Imposture” gets ankled by less than convincing characters and narrative holes, although tale of a snobbish critic kidnapping a student and stealing the manuscript to her novel is less predictable than the book titles cramming the antihero’s shelves. Legs both on home turf and further afield will depend on critical response, but pic lacks the necessary oomph to attract crowds.
Serge Pommier (helmer Bouchitey) is a supercilious literary critic who’s never been able to write the novel he feels is worthy of his genius. When student Jeanne (first timer Laetitia Chardonnet) asks him to read her manuscript, he condescendingly agrees, expecting a time-waster. Instead, he’s surprised to discover a work of enormous talent. He immediately appropriates the novel, changes the title, and sends it to a publisher.
Fearful his scheme might be discovered, he kidnaps Jeanne and burns her house down. He chains her in the cellar of an empty country mansion, not quite sure what to do next. The passage of time is one of Bouchitey’s biggest problems. The novel seems to get published in record time, and it’s not clear why Serge bothers to keep Jeanne alive.
When Serge’s publisher Massignon (Didier Flamand) tells him they need a follow-up novel pronto, he realizes the captive Jeanne is his key to further success.
A key to any thriller’s success is how it heads off questions, but in “Imposture,” they keep nagging. Whose house is he keeping her in? If it’s his, why hasn’t he sold it when there’s been a discussion of his need for money? If it’s his father’s, mentioned several times, where is he? And why doesn’t Serge’s forceful wife Anna (an underused Isabelle Renauld) call to check on her husband, who’s spending an inordinate amount of time away from home?
Only hints are provided to fill in Jeanne’s character, and then not enough to form more than superficial bonds of sympathy. She resists her imprisonment by refusing to speak, but for being locked in a dark cellar for at least a year, she’s remarkably clean and healthy looking. A scene in which she’s visibly moved by Mozart’s “Requiem” tells us she’s a music lover, but with so many gaps, this mangy bone of information doesn’t add much.
Tech credits are classically smooth, with cool overtones. Use of Steve Reich’s music, with paranoid-sounding mumbles and phrases, feels too much like something artificially grafted onto the image.