Digital backround replacement allowed 'Mission: Impossible

A crime novelist whose works may have been ghost-written by a serial killer is the focus of "Crossed Tracks."

A popular crime novelist whose works may have been ghost-written by a serial killer is one of the main characters passing through Claude Lelouch’s fanciful “Crossed Tracks,” so it seems only fitting that Lelouch should have conceived and executed his latest feature under a pseudonym (Herve Picard), only revealing himself as the pic’s true author upon screening it at the Cannes Film Festival. That said, the pic’s glossy melange of suspense and romance, sportscars and speedboats and stories within stories, all set to the indelible chansons francaises of Gilbert Becaud, couldn’t be mistaken for the work of any other helmer.

Self-financed pic, which opens in Gaul on June 27, won’t do much to win Lelouch any new fans at home or abroad. But it should amply please the old ones, and definitely marks a rebound for the helmer following the critical and commercial disappointment of his ambitious “Le Genre humain” trilogy (which Lelouch aborted following the second installment).

Opening scene introduces writer Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardant) as she is being interrogated by cops in Paris’ famed Quai des Orfevres police headquarters about her possible connection to a serial killer known as the Magician, so named for his habit of performing magic tricks in front of his victims. Cut to radio reports that the Magician has escaped from a high-security prison, then to a highway service station where hairdresser Huguette (Audrey Dana), abandoned following a fight with her boyfriend, finds herself approached by a mysterious stranger (Dominique Pinon) who seems a bit too keen to strike up a conversation. Could it be the deadly magic man himself?

From there, true to its title, “Crossed Tracks” zigzags back and forth in time, playfully toying with our notions of just who exactly these characters are and how they relate to one another. The plotting is typically elaborate on the surface, though all the twists and turns ultimately boil down to one of Lelouch’s favorite themes: that fate has a funny way of making friends and lovers out of the seemingly least likely of persons.

Much the same could be said of “Le Genre humain,” but those films’ epic scale and cluttered casts sometimes seemed to overwhelm Lelouch, whereas the new pic’s more intimate conception is a perfect fit for a director whose best-known film was, after all, the story of one man and one woman.

Pic gets an undeniable boost from the ace performance of the short, beady-eyed Pinon, whose unconventional leading-man looks and sly mixture of malevolence and heroic charisma are perfectly in keeping with Lelouch’s conviction that nothing is quite as it appears to be. Ardant projects suitable glamour as the enigmatic, globetrotting authoress.

Production values are high, from the array of eye-catching locations along the French coast and countryside to the lustrous cinematography (HD video transferred to film) of Gerard De Battista.

Crossed Tracks

France

Production

A Les Films 13 production. Produced by Claude Lelouch. Executive producer, Remi Bergman. Directed by Claude Lelouch. Screenplay, Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven; story, Lelouch.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm, widescreen), Gerard De Battista; editors, Stephane Mazalaigue, Jean Gargonne; music, Gilbert Becaud, Alex Jaffray; production designer, Francois Chauvaud; costume designer, Marite Coutard; sound (Dolby Digital), Harald Maury, Jean-Charles Martel; assistant director, Do Combe. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (60th Anniversary Tributes), May 25, 2007. (Also in Moscow Film Festival -- closer.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Dominique Pinon, Fanny Ardant, Audrey Dana, Zinedine Soualem, Michele Bernier, Myriam Boyer, Boris Ventura Diaz, Marc Rioufol, Thomas Le Douarec.

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